Inquest opens into death of Spitfire pilot

Squadron Leader Mark Long. Photo: RAFSquadron Leader Mark Long. Photo: RAF
Squadron Leader Mark Long. Photo: RAF
An inquest was today (Thursday) opened into the death of a Spitfire pilot who died when his plane crashed in a field at Coningsby.

The RAF has temporarily grounded the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight following the death of Sqn Ldr Mark Long, 43.

An inquest opening at Lincoln Coroner's Court heard emergency crews were called to the site near RAF Coningsby shortly after 1.20pm on Saturday May 25.

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Coroner's officer Jacqui Foxlow confirmed the sole occupant of the plane was declared deceased at the scene of the crash in Langrick Road, Coningsby.

Sqn Ldr Long was identified from his RAF identification and a provisional cause of death was given as head and neck injuries following a postmortem at Leicester Royal Infirmary.

Lincolnshire Police are currently investigating the circumstances of the crash and preparing a file which will be passed to the coroner.

Paul Smith, the senior coroner for Lincolnshire, said he was satisfied the death of Sqn Ldr Long required an inquest which was provisionally listed for November 24.

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The RAF said it had taken the decision to ground the aircraft while investigations take place.

A spokesperson said: "Following the tragic accident at RAF Coningsby, and while the formal investigation is ongoing, the RAF has instigated a temporary pause in flying for the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight [BBMF]."

In a statement, the RAF said Sqn Ldr Long had been "a great friend, colleague and a passionate, professional aviator".

The Prince and Princess of Wales were among those who earlier paid tribute to the pilot.

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They said they were "incredibly sad" to learn of the death, adding their thoughts were with the pilot's family, the BBMF and the wider RAF.

Capt Robbie Lees, commander of the RAF's Display Air Wing, said: "Mark was a Typhoon pilot here at RAF Coningsby and for the last four years he has been a pilot with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight."

In a post on Facebook, officials said the BBMF visitor centre would also remain closed until further notice.

The BBMF planes, which include Spitfires, Hurricanes, a Dakota and a Lancaster bomber, are a popular sight at summer shows.

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A flypast had been due to take place at Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, near Spilsby.

A spokesperson for the heritage centre said a book of condolence for Sqn Ldr Long had been placed in the chapel for visitors to sign, and they could spend a few quiet moments of reflection there. Visitors and staff at the centre held a minute's silence for the pilot.

The flight had also been due to take part in a national commemorative event in Portsmouth on June 5 and another in Normandy the following day to mark 80 years since D-Day. They were instead represented by the Red Arrows and Typhoon display team.