Alex Parr 031218 CREDIT MOD

Engine Failure Killed RAF Test Pilot, Inquest Hears

Flight Lieutenant Alex Parr joined the RAF as a teenager.

Alex Parr 031218 CREDIT MOD

Flt Lt Parr had been a pilot for 20 years and worked at the Empire Test Pilots School at nearby Boscombe Down (Picture: MOD).

An experienced RAF test pilot was killed during a flight when his plane suffered engine failure, an inquest heard.

Flight Lieutenant Alex Parr, 40, died when the Yak-52 civilian aircraft crashed during an emergency landing close to Dinton airfield in Wiltshire in July 2016.

The inquest in Salisbury, Wiltshire, heard Fl Lt Parr was piloting the plane and was accompanied by a safety pilot when the accident happened.

The two-seater plane was privately owned but sub-contracted to Qinetiq who ran the Empire Test Pilots School on behalf of the Ministry of Defence.

The court heard the Yak-52 was used in instruction flights to train elite pilots to become test pilots and instructors.

Wiltshire and Swindon Coroner David Ridley told the jury at the start of proceedings that the plane had broken flight instruments and one of the issues they would have to consider was whether this contributed to the crash.

"One issue you will have to consider is whether the failure of the instruments contributed to the unsatisfactory forced landing at Dinton airfield," the coroner said.

"Finally, were there any other circumstances that contributed to Alex's death?"

The hearing heard that the married father-of-three, from Marlborough, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash and was formally identified by dental records.

Fl Lt Parr's widow, Dr Alice Parr, told the inquest in a written statement that her husband had joined the RAF as teenager.

He won a scholarship to read engineering at Cambridge University before becoming an officer upon graduation.

Yak-52 civilian aricraft - CREDIT Bernard Spragg Flickr
A Yak-52 civilian aircraft similar to the one that Flt Lt Parr was flying (Picture: Bernard Spragg).

"Alex has been a pilot for over 20 years and was an experienced pilot who flew every week," Dr Parr, a GP, said.

"As a test pilot, it was his role to put new and modified aircraft through manoeuvres designed to test them for strains on the aircraft and to ensure they performed correctly.

"The job he was in at the time of the accident was as an instructor for experienced pilots training to become test pilots during a year-long course.

"Alex was always aware of safety and if there was a risk with an aircraft he would not take it and as a pilot he had nothing to prove or any reason to chase the hours or the flights that he was flying.

"He was methodical and if he recognised there was a problem with an aircraft he would not fly.

"He recognised that flying could be dangerous and he just didn't need to take the risks."

Shortly before his death, Fl Lt Parr had refused to fly a civilian aircraft from Bournemouth to Boscombe Down because there was a problem with one of the instruments, Dr Parr said.

"It illustrates he would not take risks with flying," she said.

"He was a perfectionist and got frustrated when others weren't and he had a strong sense of right and wrong.

"He was passionate about flying and loved it and had recently started flying civilian aircraft at weekends again."

Dr Parr said that in 2015 a close friend had been killed in a plane crash and that an investigation had concluded that his low number of flying hours each year had been a factor.

"Alex explained to me that he was unlikely to have an accident because he was so experienced and flew so much," she said.

"He also told me that a test pilot had not died for about 30 years."

The inquest continues.