Corporal Jonathan Bayliss died in the crash at RAF Valley in March 2018.
Corporal Jonathan Bayliss died in the crash at RAF Valley in March 2018.
Red Arrows

Red Arrows engineer died after aircraft became 'ball of flames', inquest hears

Corporal Jonathan Bayliss died in the crash at RAF Valley in March 2018.
Corporal Jonathan Bayliss died in the crash at RAF Valley in March 2018.

A Red Arrows pilot was seen ejecting from his plane a moment before it burst into a "ball of flames", killing his engineer colleague, an inquest has heard.

Corporal Jonathan Bayliss, 41, an engineer sitting in the rear seat of the jet, died in the crash at RAF Valley in Anglesey, North Wales, on 20 March 2018.

A Service Inquiry Panel (SIP) investigation found that the pilot, Flight Lieutenant David Stark, who survived after ejecting from the aircraft, was almost certainly fatigued and distracted during the incident.

On Tuesday, Squadron Leader Steve Morris told an inquest in Caernarfon he had been instructing a student in a plane on the runway when he saw the Hawk T1.

He said: "The angle of bank was significant but the biggest thing that caught my attention was the rate of descent, particularly around the second half of the final turn."

He described seeing the flash of an ejector seat leaving the plane.

He said: "The next frame your eye could see is a ball of flames.

"I don't ever see the seat again. The flames get so high, I don't ever see the parachute."

He said he had thought the plane had an engine failure.

The SIP inquiry found that a training manoeuvre designed to simulate an engine failure was being carried out when the plane stalled and crashed because it was flying too low to recover.

Wreckage of the crash at RAF Valley
Wreckage of the crash at RAF Valley (Picture: PA).

The report also said Flt Lt Stark's routine did not include "sufficient time for rest", which was a contributory factor in the crash.

Sqn Ldr Morris, who performed with the Red Arrows for seven seasons, said there was "intense" pressure during a pilot's first year with the squadron.

He said: "The pressure you feel under, you put yourself under, can be intense, definitely, particularly during the spring months where you are starting to develop formations.

"It's a job that you go into wholeheartedly and with 100% commitment, otherwise you just wouldn't be able to sustain the pace and the commitment that is required to fulfil the role."

He confirmed he had instructed Flt Lt Stark before he joined the Red Arrows in 2017 and, when asked if he had any concerns about his abilities as a pilot, said: "Not any at all."

He said there was no way for the pilot, in the front seat of the aircraft, to eject the rear seat passenger.

A post-mortem examination showed Cpl Bayliss' cause of death was smoke inhalation and a low-grade head injury.

The aircraft technician, born in Dartford, Kent, joined the RAF in 2001 and in early 2018 was promoted to the Circus team, a small group of highly trained engineers who travel with the Red Arrows and provide technical support away from its base.

Coroner Katie Sutherland said the inquest, expected to last four days, would look at the pilot's knowledge, the behaviour of the aircraft in certain circumstances, and what recommendations were made in 2011 following other air crashes involving the Red Arrows.

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