Joined: 07 May 2008 Posts: 80 Location: The Red Side of Liverpool
Posted: Sun Nov 15, 2009 11:17 am Post subject: English Electric Lightning Crash, South Afica
I'm sad to report that yesterday (14/11/2009) one of Thunder City's English Electric Lightning T Mk5's (the two seat training variant) crashed during an airshow, killing it's pilot, Dave Stock.
The Lightning was taking part in the bi-annual Overburg Air Base Airshow when, after take off, Stock announced on the radio a mayday to say that he had lost hydraulic power to the controls and was heading away to a less populated area to ditch the Lightning and eject. Sadly, after three attempts, his seat malfunctioned and he remained inside as the Lightning entered a spin and crashed in a ball of flame starting a veld fire 5km north of the airfield.
After the crash the air show was stopped and spectators were requested to switch off their cell phones. Some time later the air show was resumed. The pilot's body was recovered some two hours later some distance away from the downed aircraft. The Silver Falcons, the SA Air Force's official aerobatic team, flew a missing man formation after it was announced that Dave Stock had died in the crash.
The picture below was taken by Heather Arnold approximately 9 minutes before she crashed.
My thoughts and prayers are with Dave's friends and family and everyone at Thunder City at this terrible time.
At first no one realised the seriousness of test pilot Dave Stock's predicament.
Just before noon yesterday thousands of spectators at the bi-annual Overberg Air Show at Bredasdorp had seen Stock take off in the valuable English Electric Lightning supersonic jet, one of four owned by Mike Beachy Head of Thunder City.
But after a few manoeuvres the jet appeared to be in trouble, and Stock flew to a holding area. Air force firetrucks rushed to the runway anticipating a crash landing.
Thousands of spectators watched as the jet flew east and many assumed Stock was releasing fuel to reduce the risk of fire when coming in to crash land.
The commentator announced Stock was having difficulties and the fire trucks were a precaution.
A few minutes later the commentator again announced the arrangements were precautionary. By then Stock was in serious trouble and was trying to eject. He tried three times. Then came his chilling last message: "I have ejector seat failure." The fatal crash followed.
Spectator Lance McIntosh said many people had not realised Stock was in serious difficulties.
"He circled wide, and was approaching the runway when I saw the jet diving and spiralling before it hit the ground."
Seconds later spectators felt a thud, and a huge fire ball was seen kilometres away, followed by plumes of smoke. The crowd went silent and some people were treated for shock.
Air force Oryx helicopters were dispatched to extinguish the flames, which spread to the veld.
Initially it was thought Stock had successfully ejected and an announcement was made to switch off cellphones as they were jamming the networks, which in turn was hampering the rescue party.
But then word spread of his desperate final message.
Stock, who test flew the first locally assembled Hawk fighter trainer aircraft, was a record holder who, with British tycoon Sir Richard Branson as a co-pilot, attempted to better his fighter jet speed record. In 2007 the show, held at Air Force Base Bredas-dorp, was awarded the best air show in the country by Aeroclub SA.
Industry insiders said it appeared the Lightning developed hydraulic problems and while burning off fuel it crashed.
There were reports that Stock had attempted to eject three times.
A spectator said: "He was flying level, dropped a bit in altitude, and then lost control and tumbled to the ground, where the aircraft exploded."
A shocked and emotional Beachy Head said yesterday he had lost a good friend.
Stock, who lived in Hermanus, was a freelance pilot and often worked for Beachy Head. He was in his late 40s, recently divorced, and believed to be the father of two children.
Beachy Head said that until yesterday. Thunder City, based at the Cape Town International Airport, had never had an accident since it appeared in 1996.
"He was a brilliant pilot, a brilliant guy. You could not find a better guy to fly priceless aeroplanes. This is a double tragedy," he said.
Beachy Head said he had no idea what caused the accident and added that the Civil Aviation Authority would investigate.
Thunder City owns the largest private collection of ex-military jet fighters in the world.
In June 2006, Stock and Branson missed setting a new speed record in a fighter jet by two seconds. Branson described the attempt as: "The greatest rush of my life... I've never flown so fast and been handed the controls at 1 000 miles an hour. It was amazing to fly supersonic fast over the Cape and break the sound barrier."
Branson was trying to beat a record Stock set with British businessman John Caudwell at the Ysterplaat Air Show in 2005, when the Lightning reached the 6km-high target in 102 seconds.
In January 2005 Stock and Gordon McClymont, test pilot for the UK aerospace and defence group BAE Systems, performed a battery of tests, including checks of the flight controls on the first locally assembled Hawk fighter trainer. In November 2006, at the Overberg air show Stock took the Lightning to new heights, reaching 6 000m in less than 70 seconds, setting a new All Africa record.
In November 2002, Stock gave a US father and son the ride of their lives when they paid R115 000 for two flights at Thunder City.
San Francisco tourist Maxwell Dever, 61, paid $3 000 (R22 240) for an hour flight in the Hawker Hunter, while son Noah took a $9 000 sortie in the English Electric Lightning which lasted about 45 minutes.
The Lightning, built during the height of the Cold War, holds a number of world climb-to-altitude records and is famous for its vertical climb performance.
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Last edited by XL391 on Sun Nov 15, 2009 1:52 pm; edited 1 time in total
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