Dramatic end to Culdrose Air Day as plane crashes - DETAILS + VIDEO + PICTURES

The aircraft skids off the runway and on to the grass. Pictures: GRAHAM SPILLER

The aircraft skids off the runway and on to the grass. Pictures: GRAHAM SPILLER

First published in Cornwall
Last updated
by , News Editor

Culdrose Air Day ended in drama this evening after a pilot was forced to crash land his aeroplane.

Lt Commander Chris Gotke, commanding officer of the Royal Naval Historic Flight and an experienced pilot, was flying a Sea Fury towards the end of this afternoon’s flying display when he was forced to ditch it.

The first onlookers became aware that something was wrong was when smoke started billowing from the plane – which is not fitted with smoke and therefore clearly not part of the display.

This is The West Country:

Picture: GRAHAM SPILLER

This is The West Country:

Picture: Bob Sharples

He then attempted to bring down the landing gear, but only one wheel was visible.

As the plane neared the ground the second wheel could be seen coming out, but did not lock and gave way.

The plane could be seen first hitting the runway and bouncing, before it skidded off to the side onto the grass.

Aviation photographer Graham Spiller, who saw the incident unfold, said: “There was a stunned silence when it became obvious to the non-aviation audience that something was wrong.

“You see an aircraft trailing smoke at an air show and that’s what they do; however when you know that aircraft is not fitted with a smoke system you know there’s a problem.”

This is The West Country:

On final approach only one wheel is visible. Picture: GRAHAM SPILLER

He said in that situation there had been potential harm to the pilot “if it does go horribly, horribly wrong”, but added: “But a pilot that experienced, you would expect them to be able to cope with that.”

Fortunately Mr Gotke appeared unharmed by the incident, getting out of the plane unaided.

This is The West Country:

Both wheels down on landing but not locked, starting to fold up again as weight comes on. Picture: GRAHAM SPILLER

Another witness said the pilot did "a really cool job" of landing, adding that the plane came down "beautifully smoothly" despite the emergency situation. 

This is The West Country:

Sparks fly as the striken plane touches down. PICTURE: Bob Sharples

Culdrose fire crews raced to the abandoned plane , while a search and rescue Sea King – which was already airborne, ready for the next flying sequence, circled overhead ready to be called into action if required.

This is The West Country:

Picture: GRAHAM SPILLER

The commentator explained to the watching crowd that the pilot had called in a problem to air traffic control and asked for a precautionary landing.

The incident put an end to the flying display, with anyone who captured the incident on a camera asked to give their details to Culdrose before they left.

An inquiry has been launched, including by the Civil Aviation Authority.

A Royal Navy spokesperson said: "We can confirm that an historic display aircraft at the Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose's Air Day has carried out an unplanned but controlled landing.

"There are no injuries to the Royal Navy pilot nor to any members of the public in attendance.

"All relevant organisations have been informed and the investigation process has been initiated so it would be inappropriate to comment further."

This is The West Country:

Picture: Bob Sharples

This is The West Country:

Lt Cdr Chris Gotke safely out of the aircraft. Picture: GRAHAM SPILLER

This is The West Country:

Picture: GRAHAM SPILLER

The Sea Fury was a naval fighter plane, built by Hawker between 1945 and 1955, and saw service in the Korean War.

They were retired by the Navy in 1955, with the introduction of jet powered aircraft, although they continued to be used by other air-forces including Pakistan up until 1960.

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