March 20, 2023 5.00 pm This story is over 15 months old

Red Arrows engineer Jonathan Bayliss remembered on anniversary of tragic death

Corporal Bayliss will never be forgotten

By Local Democracy Reporter

On March 20, 2018, RAF engineer Jonathan Bayliss boarded a Red Arrows Hawk T1 aircraft for routine training, unaware of the tragedy that was set to follow.

Sat in the rear seat of a Hawk T1, Corporal Jonathan Bayliss, 41, from Ingham in Lincolnshire but born in Kent, was on hand to offer technical and mechanical support during a Red Arrows training operation.

Flight Lieutenant David Stark, piloting the aircraft, had been carrying out a practised engine failure on take off, before a terrifying moment saw everything change in the blink of an eye.

The aircraft stalled and was seen bursting into flames before rapidly descending at RAF Valley on Anglesey, eventually crashing into the runway.

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

Stark managed to hit the eject button and avoided death by the skin of his teeth, though he was left badly injured by the incident after fracturing his femur and being knocked unconscious.

However, Jonathan Bayliss took the full brunt of impact, and eventually died of a low grade head injury and smoke inhalation as the jet hit the ground.

Five years on from his passing, the Red Arrows and wider RAF community still remember Corporal Jonathan Bayliss as the reliable, caring hard worker that brought him to the heights of his profession.

A spokesperson for the Red Arrows said of Bayliss: “The thoughts of each and every member of the Red Arrows team remain with Corporal Jonathan Bayliss’ family and friends.

“He was a skilled, experienced and dedicated colleague who is deeply missed.”

Jonathan-Bayliss was on the Circus team – the small group of highly-trained engineers who travel with the aircraft and provide technical support to the Red Arrows when the aircraft operate away from their home base.

Before he was an Aircraft Technician for the most famous display team on earth, Jonathan worked at Brands Hatch motor racing circuit, following studies at West Kent College and the University of Greenwich.

He joined the RAF in 2001, working on squadrons at RAF Coltishall and RAF Coningsby, as well as taking on overseas deployments.

After 15 years of experience in the Air Force, Bayliss joined the Red Arrows team as a mechanical engineer, supporting global tours with the team and even leading the dye team in 2017 – which replenished the jets’ smoke systems wherever they landed.

Then came 2018 – a year the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team will never forget.

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

Corporal Bayliss was due to be on the Circus team, a small group of highly-trained and skilled engineers who travel with the aircraft for technical support when the Reds operate away from their home base.

It was during a routine training operation for this team that the 41-year-old lost his life from the rear seat of a Hawk T1 aircraft.

A coroner’s inquest into the incident found that the plane crash was avoidable, though it rejected Bayliss’ family wishes of an unlawful killing verdict.

Coroner Katie Sutherland concluded that the MoD breached its duty, but not to the point of corporate manslaughter,

A Defence Safety Authority Service inquiry has since resulted in 25 recommendations for future incidents, highlighting shortcomings in ejection procedure training for engineers like Jonathan.

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