Spitfire crash victim named as pilot Mark Long

A pilot who died after a Spitfire crashed in a field in Lincolnshire has been named by the RAF as Sqn Ldr Mark Long.

Emergency crews were called to the crash site, near RAF Coningsby, shortly before 13:20 BST on Saturday.

The World War Two-era fighter belonged to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) based at the station.

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

Leading the tributes, Gp 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.

"A great friend, colleague, and a passionate, professional aviator he will be sorely missed by all that knew him."

Gp Capt Lees said an investigation into the cause of the "tragic event" was now under way.

He added: "I would like to extend a sincere thank you to the RAF personnel, and our emergency services colleagues who responded so swiftly yesterday.

"Our thoughts remain with Mark's family and friends to whom we offer our deepest sympathies. We ask that their privacy be respected at this tragic and shocking time."

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

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

BBMF operates six Spitfires, two Hurricanes, a Lancaster, a C47 Dakota, and two Chipmunk aircraft used for training. The aircraft are flown by regular RAF aircrew.

According to Wally Epton, a retired RAF squadron leader and chairman of the Historic Aircraft Association (HAA), this was the first fatality involving a BBMF aircraft since its creation in July 1957.

Mr Epton, who flew Spitfires for BBMF from 1972 to 1974, said the aviation community would await the outcome of the investigation into the crash.

Sharing his knowledge of BBMF's fleet, he added: "They are probably the best maintained aircraft in the world. The standard is very high indeed.

"The Spitfire is an exceptionally safe aeroplane."

Mr Epton said HAA wished to extend its condolences to the family and friends of the dead pilot.

Allan Winn, chairman of Aviation Heritage UK, the national body for the preservation of aviation-related items, is a former editor of Flight International magazine, and said: "The loss of a pilot and a historic airframe is a terrible thing.

"Our thoughts go out to his family and team mates. BBMF is a very close knit organisation."

Mr Winn echoed Mr Epton's thoughts on BBMF's safety record.

"It's exemplary," he said.

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