Heart condition may have caused Suffolk pilot’s airfield crash – report

David Jenkins.

David Jenkins. - Credit: Archant

A “serious and undiagnosed” heart condition may have caused a champion aerobatics pilot from Suffolk to crash at an airfield in the region, a report has found.

The aftermath of the crash at the Old Buckenham Airfield. Photo : Sonya Duncan

The aftermath of the crash at the Old Buckenham Airfield. Photo : Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

David Jenkins, from Stanton, died on April 22 last year after his Edge 360 plane crashed during an aerobatic practice display at a press launch for the Old Buckenham Airshow in Norfolk, where he had been due to fly with his Wildcat Aerobatics colleagues.

The 61-year-old started flying in 1985 and was an experienced and respected pilot – he was a two-time British Advanced Aerobatics champion and a member of the British team at the European and world championships.

But a report into the crash published by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) today, says the pilot was suffering from acute coronary artery thrombosis, a “serious and previously undiagnosed” condition which results in blood clots forming inside blood vessels in the heart.

A post-mortem examination report described the condition as a “serious medical event requiring immediate intervention”.

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A camera on the right wing tip of the plane captured the latter part of the flight and confirmed Mr Jenkins did not lose consciousness.

However, the 21-page report said he may have experienced a symptom of the condition that left him unable to pull out of the “gyroscopic tumbling manoeuvre”.

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The plane entered a spin, during which, the report said, there was no “apparent attempt at recovery”.

“It is possible that the pilot became incapacitated at a critical stage of the flight to the extent that he was unable to recognise the rapidly deteriorating situation or respond correctly to it,” the report said.

All evidence suggested Mr Jenkins felt fine ahead of the display.

Earlier that morning, Mr Jenkins – who had logged 1,290 hours flying time, of which 265 were in the Edge plane model – had been a passenger in a Tornado at RAF Marham, something the report said did not cause him any “ill effects” .

Abiding by RAF standards, he also had a full medical ahead of the Tornado flight.

The report confirmed there were no technical issues with the plane, the weather was “settled”, the pilot was wearing a parachute and had no alcohol or drugs in his system.

It also noted that Mr Jenkins entered the manoeuvre “at a lower height and speed than usual”, which reduced recovery time.

It said the incident came early in the flying season after a winter “in which the pilot had done limited flying”.

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