Red Arrow acrobatic plane crashes in Britain
A Red Arrow plane from Britain's Royal Air Force crashed on Saturday during an acrobatic air display over the southern English coast, police said, although the fate of the pilot remained unclear.
Witnesses described seeing the brightly-painted Hawk jet come down low and crash into a field at Throop village, near Bournemouth International Airport, after they completed a successful display for Bournemouth Air Festival.
"Police received a call from a member of the public at 1.48 pm (1248 GMT) this afternoon, Saturday 20 August 2011, reporting that a Red Arrow plane had gone down in Throop in Bournemouth," said a spokeswoman for Dorset police.
"Police, fire and ambulance all attended the scene and a police cordon is currently in place.
"The incident will be investigated by the military Air Accident Investigation team."
Shaun Spencer-Perkins was out for a walk with his family when he saw the plane come down, telling the BBC: "I heard a rushing sound and I saw a plane about 15 metres above the ground racing across the fields.
"It impacted and bounced across the field, made it across the river."
He said there was no fire but debris from the plane and aviation fuel was scattered everywhere.
With no sign of a pilot coming down by parachute, two members of the public jumped into the water to look for the cockpit, he added.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: "We are aware of an incident and we're investigating."
The Red Arrows comprise of nine jets and are each flown by a single pilot, who take three years out of their military duties with the RAF to perform daring acrobatic manoeuvres and flypasts across Britain each summer.
The current team, which also performs overseas, includes its first ever female pilot, 33-year-old Kirsty Moore, who joined in November 2009.
The Hawk jets fly at a top speed of Mach 1.2 and a maximum altitude of 48,000 feet, and each pilot must put in 1,500 flying hours before joining the team.
The planes trail smoke behind them, which helps the pilots judge wind speed and direction during displays, and also looks good as they loop through the air.
© 2011 AFP