November 3, 2021 9.09 am

Red Arrows engineer died in fireball seconds after crash landing

The four day inquest began with harrowing accounts of the crash

An engineer died in a Red Arrows jet after it burst into flames, while the pilot was seen ejecting from the plane, an inquest has heard.

Corporal Jonathan Bayliss, 41, from Ingham in Lincolnshire, had been sitting in the rear seat of the Hawk T1 aircraft when it crashed on the runway at RAF Valley in Anglesey, North Wales, on March 21 2018.

The coroner said, after reviewing evidence, that Bayliss, who was born in Kent, died from smoke inhalation and a low grade head injury.

The wreckage lay covered in what looked like red tarpaulin was surrounded by firefighters that afternoon. Photo: David Robert Jones

A Service Inquiry Panel (SIP) investigation found that the pilot, Flight Lieutenant David Stark, survived by ejecting from the aircraft seconds before it burst into flames.

Stark had been carrying out a practised engine failure on take off at the time.

The investigation in 2019 also found that Stark was almost certainly fatigued and distracted during the incident.

Flight Lieutenant David Stark joined the Red Arrows in 2017. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Squadron Leader Steve Morris, a former member of the Red Arrows team, was about to take off with a student on the runway at the time of the incident.

“The rate of the decent was significant. It caught my attention,” he said.

He told the inquest he saw the canopy of the jet shatter and the pilot eject himself before the aircraft exploded into a ball of flames.

A report published previously by the Defence Safety Authority ruled out technical failure or system fault as an accident factor. The focus of the Service Inquiry report was on human factor rather than technical matters.

The Service Inquiry Panel (SIP) said in the report that the jet departed from RAF Valley with the intention of simulating an engine failure in a training exercise.

It was then due to fly to RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire. During the training manoeuvre, the plane stalled and crashed near the runway as it was flying too low to recover.

The inquiry found Flight Lt Stark generally worked from 7.30am until 5.30pm and did not include, “sufficient time for rest”. It was also noted that he was distracted by an air traffic control call asking him to confirm the aircraft’s landing gear was down shortly before the crash.

Stark was described by the panel as an experienced pilot who was familiar with the exercise.

The panel found no specific evidence to indicate that fatigue was directly affecting his overall performance. Although he was not visibly stressed, the panel considered that his fatigue levels may have been influenced by underlying work related stress.

A family statement, read by acting senior coroner Katie Sutherland, described Bayliss as a “gentle giant” with a “dry sense of humour”.

The inquest continues.

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