AN RAF pilot was killed in a plane crash just days after taking over as station commander of RAF Wittering, an inquest was told.
AN RAF pilot was killed in a plane crash just days after taking over as station commander of RAF Wittering, an inquest was told.AN RAF pilot was killed in a plane crash just days after taking over as station commander of RAF Wittering, an inquest was told.
Group Captain David Haward (45), a highly experienced pilot, crashed into a field in County Durham after losing control of his Harrier GR7 jet at 600mph.
An inquest in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, heard that Grp Capt Haward could only be identified by personal possessions found near the crash wreckage, which happened on December 18, 1998.
The married father-of-two had been promoted to command the base, near Peterborough, in the week before the crash, and was on a training exercise when tragedy struck.
Witness, Brian Robson, added: "It was making a heck of a noise. I saw it go into Mr Parkins field then heard a huge explosion. A massive fireball went up."
An accident report by Ministry of Defence investigators said Grp Capt Haward was leading a three-plane formation practising surface bombing techniques at the time of the crash
On their third run Grp Capt Haward got into difficulties.
The report said: "The pilot manoeuvred the aircraft into a position from which there was no possible recovery. Distraction or disorientation could have been a factor."
It also stated he had only "minimal exposure to this sort of a manoeuvre" and recommended the RAF amend training routines.
He was hailed a hero by locals who were convinced he had deliberately steered the plummeting plane away from houses.
South Durham coroner Colin Penma recorded a verdict of accidental death.
Flying rules reviewed
THE RAF confirmed its rules over Harrier practice flights had been reviewed in the wake of Grp Capt Hawards death.
A service spokesman said: "Our rules have been reviewed. As with any other accident we have tried to learn from what happened to prevent it happening again in the future. But as far as we are concerned it was a tragic accident."