Ministry of Defence temporarily grounds Hawk T1 aircraft after crash

A Cornwall Air Ambulance at the scene of the crash (PA Media)
22:03pm, Thu 25 Mar 2021
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Two pilots are in a stable condition in hospital after a Royal Navy Hawk jet crashed in woodland during a training exercise, leading to the Ministry of Defence temporarily grounding the aircraft pending an investigation.

The crew from the 736 Naval Air Squadron based at RNAS Culdrose at Helston Cornwall, ejected from the jet during the incident on Thursday morning.

The two-seater Hawk T1, which is the same model of jet as used by the Red Arrows, crashed in woodland in the St Martin area near Helston during a training exercise.

All Hawk T1 aircraft across the services have been temporarily “paused” amid an investigation into the incident, according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

A parachute in a tree of one of the pilots of a Royal Navy Hawk jet which crashed in woodland in Cornwall (PA Media)

A spokeswoman said in a statement: “Safety is our paramount concern. The RAF has decided to temporarily pause Hawk T1 operations, as a precautionary measure, while investigations are ongoing.

“We will continue to review the situation as further information becomes available.”

The pilots, who were found about half a mile from the main crash site having safely ejected, remain in a stable condition “without significant injury”, Devon and Cornwall Police said.

The force said the crew were treated at the scene after ejecting and were then flown by air ambulance to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth.

Eyewitness Layla Astley said: “I saw the plane flying low over our house, I heard a clunking sound, it flew on over our fields and then there was a loud crack and we saw two pilots ejecting.

A Cornwall Air Ambulance helicopter (left) alongside a Coastguard SAR helicopter in a field adjacent to where a Royal Navy Hawk jet crashed in woodland in Cornwall after the two pilots ejected (PA Media)

“I watched as their parachutes opened.

“I then saw the plane bank left and over the top of a hill before hearing a very loud bang. There was no smoke or fire and I hear from locals that thankfully no-one was seriously hurt.”

Police warned any members of the public finding debris from the jet that they should not touch it and should instead contact the force.

Chief Inspector Pete Thomas said: “This continues to be a complex scene which has been managed by emergency services throughout the day.

“My thanks go to those who responded so rapidly this morning and who have worked together effectively to progress the investigation.

“We would ask the public to continue to keep their distance from the area whilst the investigation continues and inquiries are carried out.”

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The investigation will be handed over to the Royal Navy in due course.

Ejection seat manufacturer Martin-Baker said it was the first Royal Navy ejection in 18 years.

The company wrote on Facebook: “A Royal Navy Hawk aircraft from 736 Naval Air Squadron crashed this morning during a flight from RNAS Culdrose. Both pilots ejected successfully.

“This is the first Royal Navy ejection in 18 years with the last being Martin-Baker’s 7,000th ejection back in 2003.”

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