Battle of Britain Memorial Flight 'temporarily paused' after Mark Long named as RAF pilot killed in Spitfire crash

27 May 2024, 20:46

The RAF pilot who died after a Spitfire at a Battle of Britain airshow in Lincolnshire on Saturday has been named as Squadron Leader Mark Strong.
The RAF pilot who died after a Spitfire at a Battle of Britain airshow in Lincolnshire on Saturday has been named as Squadron Leader Mark Strong. Picture: Instagram/Alamy

By Christian Oliver

The Royal Air Force has ordered the temporary grounding of Battle of Britain Memorial Flights after the death of a pilot in a Spitfire crash on Saturday.

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Squadron Leader Mark Long was named as the pilot who died in the crash at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, over the weekend.

Following an investigation into the cause of the crash, the RAF confirmed the BBMF would be paused.

A spokesperson for the RAF said: "Following the tragic accident at RAF Coningsby, and while the formal investigation is ongoing, the RAF has instigated a temporary pause in flying for the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight."

As well as the Spitfire, other BBMP wartime fighter and bomber aircraft including Hurricanes and Lancasters would also not fly.

The planes usually take part in air shows and memorial displays. It is understood the next display was scheduled for the Midlands Air Festival between May 31 and June 2.

His senior officer Group Captain Robbie Lees said: “It is with great sorrow that I must confirm the death of Squadron Leader Mark Long" (pictured left)
His senior officer Group Captain Robbie Lees said: “It is with great sorrow that I must confirm the death of Squadron Leader Mark Long" (pictured left). Picture: Instagram/Marklong_pilot

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Is comes after colleges paid tribute to the pilot.

His senior officer Group Captain Robbie Lees said: “It is with great sorrow that I must confirm the death of Squadron Leader Mark Long.

“Mark was a Typhoon pilot here at RAF Coningsby and for the last four years, he has been a pilot with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. A great friend, colleague, and a passionate, professional aviator he will be sorely missed by all that knew him.

“An investigation into the cause of this tragic event has now begun. The RAF will not be offering any comment on the accident until that investigation has concluded, and likewise, we ask others not to speculate.

“I would like to extend a sincere thank you to the RAF personnel, and our emergency services colleagues who responded so swiftly yesterday.

1947 Supermarine Spitfire FR.XIV, airborne at the Best of British Air Show held at Shuttleworth on the 12th May 2024.
Mark was flying Spitfire when he died. Picture: Alamy

“Our thoughts remain with Mark’s family and friends to whom we offer our deepest sympathies. We ask that their privacy be respected at this tragic and shocking time.”

Emergency crews headed to the scene in Coningsby after reports that the aircraft went down just after 1.20pm.

In an earlier statement, Lincolnshire Police said: “It is believed to be a single occupant aircraft and nobody else is thought to have been involved.”

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch said it knew about the incident but was not involved as it was a military investigation.

Police then confirmed the location of the aircraft crash as a field on Langrick Road in Congingsby.

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The force closed roads in the Dogdyke Road and Sandy Bank areas and asked motorists to avoid the area and seek different routes.

Langrick Road in Congingsby.
Police confirmed the location of the aircraft crash as a field on Langrick Road in Congingsby. Picture: Google

The Land, Tank and Military Machines event took place in the airfield on Saturday.

The preview for the event said it was scheduled to include flying displays by a Spitfire and other aircraft that were utilised by the RAF during the Second World War, like a Hawker Hurricane and a Avro Lancaster PA474.

The Royal Air Force issued a statement, saying: "We are aware of an incident in the vicinity of RAF Coningsby involving an RAF aircraft.

Only a few dozen airworthy Spitfires remain, including six that belong to the BBMF.

Rishi Sunak said in a post on X: "Awful news to see the life of a serving RAF pilot cut short in this tragic event. My thoughts are with their family and loved ones."

Sir Keir Starmer said: "Deeply saddened by news from Lincolnshire. Thank you to the emergency services for their response. My thoughts are with the pilot's family at this awful time."

The Prince and Princess of Wales have said they are "incredibly sad" after a Royal Air Force pilot died in a Spitfire crash near RAF Coningsby.

Prince William and Princess Kate said on their Kensington Palace X account: "Incredibly sad to hear of the news this afternoon from RAF Coningsby.

"Our thoughts this evening are with the pilot's loved ones, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and the wider RAF family. W & C."

"We are working with the emergency services and supporting those involved. An update will be provided in due course.

"If you were a witness or have any imagery of the incident please do not post it online, and instead contact Lincolnshire Police on 101 quoting Incident 221."

The Ministry of Defence said it had no comment to make at this time, but a statement would be issued later today.

RAF Coningsby is the training station for Typhoon pilots and has two frontline combat-ready squadrons.

It also hosts the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, which aims to maintain historic aircraft in “airworthy condition” to commemorate RAF members who lost their lives in service.

The scheme has six Spitfires, two Hurricanes, a Lancaster, a C47 Dakota, and two Chipmunk aircraft, which are mostly used for training purposes.

The aircraft are flown by regular RAF crew and can be regularly seen in the sky from May to September.

The airfield was opened in 1941 and was a Bomber Command station until the early 1960s.

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