A pilot who was forced to crash land his historic aeroplane at Culdrose Air Day when it developed a fault has been universally praised for his skills and quick thinking, including from the Royal Navy's most decorated and distinguished naval test pilot.
Lieutenant Commander Chris Götke, commanding officer of the Royal Naval Historic Flight and an experienced pilot, was coming towards the end of his flying display in a Sea Fury when he was forced to ditch the half-century old aircraft.
It made for a dramatic end to the day last Thursday and led to the cancellation of the remaining flying display programme.
The first point 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.
Lt Cdr Götke 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 the undercarriage gave way.
The plane could be seen first hitting the runway and bouncing, before it skidded off to the side onto the grass.
His actions received widespread praise, including from the Fly Navy Heritage Trust which owns the plane and said on its website: “Lt Cdr Götke's quick thinking and skilful handling of a complex and potentially highly dangerous situation averted disaster, not only putting the aircraft on the ground safely and avoiding injury to the 33,000 crowd but undoubtedly saving the aircraft as well as himself.”
Commodore Bill Covington, a trustee of the trust, said Lt Cdr Götke had initially thought to land in a nearby field, but realising he did not have enough power to make it he exercised “super judgement” in landing on the runway as soon as possible.
It also caught the eye of Captain Eric 'Winkle' Brown, the Royal Navy's most decorated and distinguished naval test pilot, who was photographed with Lt Cdr Götke shortly before he left for RNAS Culdrose.
Cpt Brown said: “It was a pretty amazing piece of flying. There couldn't have been a better person at the controls and the entire Fleet Air Arm community salutes him!”
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.”
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 Lt Cdr Götke appeared unharmed by the incident, getting out of the plane unaided.
Another witness said the pilot did “a really cool job” of landing, adding that the plane came down “beautifully smoothly” despite the emergency situation.
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.
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.”
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.