An inquiry has ruled a Red Arrows pilot was almost certainly ”fatigued and distracted” when a jet crashed at Valley, killing an engineer.
Flight Lieutenant David Stark ejected from his Hawk T1 aircraft just moments before it came down near the runway in March 2018.
He recovered from non-life threatening injuries, but his colleague, Corporal Jonathan Bayliss, died at the scene.
The Service Inquiry Panel report said Flight Lt Stark did not have enough sufficient rest before the crash and it was ‘very likely’ he may have been suffering from ‘reduced situational awareness’.
It added he would not have been able to properly warn his colleague about the impending impact.
The Hawk aircraft was about to fly back from Valley to the Red Arrows’ base at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire. It was attempting to simulate an engine failure as a training exercise.
The panel said Flight Lt Stark was an ‘experienced pilot’ who was familiar with the manoeuvre – he generally worked a 10-hour day from 7.30am until 5.30pm.
It was noted that the pilot was distracted by a call from air traffic control, asking him to confirm the aircraft’s landing gear was down.
The plane stalled during the manoeuvre and ended up crashing near the runway as it was flying too low to recover. Flight Lt Stark ejected only half a second after the ”dramatic realisation” that the jet would hit the ground – leaving him not enough time to warn Cpl Bayliss.
The report concluded: ”At the critical moment of the sortie, he may not have recognised the associated hazards as the situation developed.”
The panel stated the lack of sufficient rest time was a contributing factor and the pressures felt by Red Arrows pilot were ”exacerbated by resource constraints”. They added the ”shortfall” in engineering and air safety personnel could lead to another incident in the future.
Corporal Jonathan Bayliss (41), from Dartford, Kent, was an RAF veteran for fifteen years before joining the Red Arrows as an aircraft technician in 2016.
He had been chosen to be a part of the Circus team of travelling support engineers for the 2018 season. Prior to joining the RAF, he worked at Brands Hatch.
Flight Lt Stark was discharged from hospital just nine days after the crash.