British Royal Air Force "Red Arrows" plane crashes, pilot dies

WASHINGTON Sat Aug 20, 2011 5:12pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A plane in the British Royal Air Force's "Red Arrows" aerobatic team crashed on Saturday, killing the pilot, after a performance at an air festival on the southern coast of England, authorities said.

The plane of Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging, 33, crashed near an airport some 100 miles from London after performing at the Bournemouth Air Festival, local officials and the Ministry of Defense said in separate statements.

Egging, known as "Eggman" according to Captain Simon Blake, Commandant of the RAF's Central Flying School, joined the team last year. Before joining the Red Arrows, Egging flew operational missions to support coalition ground forces in Afghanistan.

"It was with great sadness that I heard of the death of Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging whilst performing with the Red Arrows today," British Defense Secretary Liam Fox said in a statement posted on the MOD's website.

"Joining the Red Arrows was his lifetime ambition and he performed with great skill whilst on the team."

Egging became interested in flying at an early age, the MOD said, inspired by his pilot father who allowed him in the cockpit for take offs and landings.

Though other RAF pilots expressed their wishes to continue with flying displays at the festival Sunday, head of Bournemouth tourism Mark Smith said in the statement posted on the Air Festival's site that the Red Arrows would not be performing.

Egging is survived by his wife, Emma.

"Jon was everything to those that knew him, and he was the best friend and husband I could ever have wished for," she said in the MOD statement.

"He loved his job and was an exemplary pilot. Watching him today, I was the proudest I've ever been."

(Reporting by Molly O'Toole; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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