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Battle of Britain Memorial Flight aircraft ‘not expected’ for D-Day commemorations amid an investigation into the death of a pilot in a Spitfire crash

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Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) aircraft are ‘not expected’ to fly in D-Day commemorations amid an investigation into the death of a pilot in a Spitfire crash, the RAF has said.

Squadron Leader Mark Long was killed when the Spitfire he was flying crashed in a field near RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.

Police and emergency services rushed to the scene on Langrick Road just before 1.20pm on Saturday but Mr Long was declared dead at the scene.

Mr Long’s family said he ‘lived his life with an unwavering passion’ and ‘will be cherished and deeply missed’ in a statement.

An RAF spokesperson said earlier this week that a temporary pause was in place while an investigation into the incident is ongoing.

Squadron Leader Mark Long, (pictured) died when his Spitfire crashed within a few minutes of takeoff during a Battle of Britain memorial flight near RAF Coningsby

Squadron Leader Mark Long, (pictured) died when his Spitfire crashed within a few minutes of takeoff during a Battle of Britain memorial flight near RAF Coningsby

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight aircraft are 'not expected' to fly in D-Day commemorations following the death of Mr Long

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight aircraft are ‘not expected’ to fly in D-Day commemorations following the death of Mr Long

Tributes left for Mark Long who was tragically killed in a Battle of Britain memorial flight

Tributes left for Mark Long who was tragically killed in a Battle of Britain memorial flight

The Typhoon aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth flew in 'missing man' formation (pictured) to remember their colleague

The Typhoon aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth flew in ‘missing man’ formation (pictured) to remember their colleague 

RAF bosses said their Spitfires, a Lancaster bomber and other wartime planes would remain grounded next week.

Avro Lancaster 

Crew: 7 – pilot, flight engineer, navigator, bomb aimer/nose gunner, wireless operator, mid-upper and rear gunners

Wingspan: 102 ft

Maximum speed: 282 mph 

Year built: 1941

Year retired:  1964

They had been due to play a key role in the 80th anniversary commemorations of the landings.

Senior officials said the decision was taken ‘regretfully’ but that the cause of last weekend’s crash remained unknown and it would be too risky to fly the other historic aircraft. 

Flypasts at the Trooping the Colour also remain in doubt.

The crashed Spitfire was part of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight which had been due to perform at events in Portsmouth and in France next week.

The 80-year-old plane crashed shortly after taking off from RAF Coningsby In Lincolnshire on Saturday, killing pilot Squadron Leader Mark Long, a married father of two.

An investigation has begun into the cause of the crash, but has yet to pinpoint what went wrong.

It is understood senior defence officials ruled the entire BBMF fleet should remain grounded while the investigation continued, because of the potential risk to pilots and public safety.

The BBMF has five other Spitfire fighters, two Hurricane fighters, one Lancaster bomber, two Dakota transport planes and two post-war Chipmunk trainers. It had not been announced which of the aircraft would have taken part in next week’s 80th anniversary events, including a flypast over the ferry taking veterans to France

On Friday, the RAF said the cause of the incident ‘remains unknown’, so a decision has been made to continue the pause in flying for the BBMF.

Supermarine Spitfires 

Crew: 1 

Wingspan: 36 ft 10 in

Maximum speed: 370 mph

Year built: 1936

Year retired:  1961

As a result, BBMF aircraft are not expected to be able to participate in the D-Day 80 commemorations on June 5 and 6.

An RAF spokesperson said: ‘On May 25 2024 a Spitfire from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) crashed in the vicinity of RAF Coningsby, resulting in the tragic death of the pilot, Sqn Ldr Mark Long.

‘The Defence Air Investigation Branch (DAIB) are continuing their investigation.

‘At this stage, the cause of the incident remains unknown and therefore, after extensive consultation between the Chief of the Air Staff and relevant senior RAF officers, it has been decided to continue the pause in flying for the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF).

‘As always, flight safety remains the RAF’s primary concern, therefore BBMF flying will only resume when it is safe and appropriate to do so.

‘As a result, regretfully, BBMF aircraft are not expected to be able to participate in the forthcoming D-Day 80 commemorations over June 5-6 2024.’

RAF Coningsby is home to the BBMF, a collection of wartime fighter and bomber aircraft that take part in air shows and memorial displays.

Squadron Leader Mark Long had flown Spitfires for four years and was due to take over the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in 2025

Squadron Leader Mark Long had flown Spitfires for four years and was due to take over the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in 2025

The scene where the pilot died in a crash during a Battle of Britain event near RAF Coningsby

The scene where the pilot died in a crash during a Battle of Britain event near RAF Coningsby

Sqn Ldr Mark Long pictured reading a map on an RAF airplane

Sqn Ldr Mark Long pictured reading a map on an RAF airplane

The location where the Spitfire crashed in a field on on Langrick Road at RAF Coningsby

The location where the Spitfire crashed in a field on on Langrick Road at RAF Coningsby

Spitfire and Hurricane planes flying in formation over Kent. The aircraft are some of the few remaining and often fly in commemorative ceremonies such as the D-Day celebrations

Spitfire and Hurricane planes flying in formation over Kent. The aircraft are some of the few remaining and often fly in commemorative ceremonies such as the D-Day celebrations 

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

Hawker Hurricanes 

Crew: 1 

Wingspan: 40 ft

Maximum speed: 340 mph

Year built: 1935

Year retired: –

Tributes to Mr Long have also flooded in from The Prince and Princess of Wales, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

And on Tuesday, Typhoon aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth flew in ‘missing man’ formation to remember their former colleague.

At the time of his death, Mr Long was in his fourth season with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

Officer Commanding Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, Squadron Leader Mark Sugden, said: ‘In life, we are occasionally privileged to meet incredible people like Mark.

‘Mark touched the hearts of everyone that he met, always prioritising the needs of others before himself.

‘The epitome of a military fighter pilot, he personified the very best of the Royal Air Force and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

‘We were lucky to have him as part of the team and part of our BBMF family.

Squadron Leader Long, 43, had just taken off from RAF Coningsby when he sent a ‘Mayday’ message over his radio, the most severe distress message. 

A 1951 De Havilland. The single engine aircraft will no longer be taking part in the D-Day commemorations

A 1951 De Havilland. The single engine aircraft will no longer be taking part in the D-Day commemorations

Sources said his aircraft crashed about a minute after take-off and that he could not have escaped in time. He died at the scene.

Douglas Dakota 

Crew: 4 – pilot, co-pilot, navigator, radio operator 

Wingspan: 95 ft

Maximum speed: 224 mph

Year built: 1941

Year retired: –

The Spitfire – a Mk IX built in 1944, was involved in D-Day and shot down an enemy aircraft – was overhauled during the winter and had been signed off as safe to fly.

 Mr Long was born in Bury St Edmunds and graduated Initial Officer Training in 2003.

He was then sent to RAF Linton-on-Ouse to fly the Tucano aircraft before gaining his ‘wings’ in 2003.

His Advanced Flying Training was on the Hawk and he was selected to take on the role of an instructor.

Mr Long later converted to the Harrier GR7/9 and was posted to RAF Cottesmore, Rutland.

In 2012, Mr Long joined the Typhoon Force and was assigned to RAF Coningsby.

In 2016, he was the Typhoon Display Pilot and his primary role was to teach student pilots how to operate the jet.

The MoD said that alongside his instructional duties, Mr Long also helped defend UK sovereign airspace by undertaking Quick Reaction Alert duties in the UK, Falkland Islands and while on Baltic Air Policing Operations in Lithuania.

The crash was the first fatality involving a BBMF aircraft since its creation in July 1957. Its mission is to keep the historic aircraft in airworthy condition to commemorate those killed in the service of the country, and to inspire future generations. 

To commemorate Mr Long three Typhoon jets have performed a special flypast.

Typhoon aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth flew in ‘missing man’ formation to remember their former colleague yesterday.

The base shared the clip to X with the caption: ‘In remembrance of Squadron Leader Mark Long. Per ardua ad astra [through adversity to the stars – motto of the RAF].’

De Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunks 

Crew: 2 

Wingspan: 34 ft

Maximum speed: 138 mph

Year built: 1946

Year retired: 1996

Sqn Ldr Long had flown Typhoons too – at RAF Coningsby – and took to Instagram just weeks before the memorial show to share his excitement.

In a post dated March 4, the Squadron Leader shared videos of Hurricane and Spitfire aeroplanes in flight with the caption: ‘We are only a few weeks away from getting back flying in these iconic aircraft. Cannot wait!!!’.

Flowers have been laid at RAF Coningsby in the days since by dozens of air enthusiasts, including Tony who said: ‘A Hurricane was going to take off after the Spitfire but his flight was aborted.

‘It is too difficult to estimate the speed.

‘I couldn’t clearly see the spot it came down but pictures show it was right beside a house and a tractor so no doubt other people witnessed it too. It is a terrible tragedy.’

The man, who lives locally, told how he often took his stepson to watch the planes in action at the airfield.

He paid warm tribute to the pilot as a ‘remarkable and wonderful man’ and thrilled children with his ‘pep talks.’

He recalled: ‘At the end of a flight Mark would always make a point of coming up to the big wire fence and give the kids a pep talk through it.

‘He’d still be in his uniform, and he’d still have his flight maps pinned to his trousers, above the knees and would pass them to the children through the fence.

‘I didn’t know him personally but I knew him by reputation as a great pilot and a remarkable and wonderful man.

‘He always made time to speak to people so I had to come here today to pay my respects.

‘He told the kids that it was dream to become a pilot but he had failed four or five times.

‘His message to them was never to give up and that you can always live your dream.

‘It is such a terrible tragedy that it was to end in this way for him.’



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