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‘We were honoured to fly alongside him’ - Tributes paid to pilot David Jenkins who died during aerobatics display at Old Buckenham Airfield

06:30 23 April 2015

David Jenkins who died during a display to showcase his skills. Photo: Wildcat Aerobatics /PA Wire

David Jenkins who died during a display to showcase his skills. Photo: Wildcat Aerobatics /PA Wire

The aviation community is today mourning the loss of a champion aerobatics pilot, who died during a practice display.

Aftermath of the crash during aerobatics display at Old Buckenham Airfield. Photo : Sonya DuncanAftermath of the crash during aerobatics display at Old Buckenham Airfield. Photo : Sonya Duncan

David Jenkins died yesterday afternoon at Old Buckenham Airfield when he crashed during a practice display at a media event to launch this year’s airshow.

Mr Jenkins, who is believed to be in his 50s and from west Suffolk, was one of the Wildcat Aerobatics team and had arrived after his two colleagues, performing loops and turns before moving into a flat spin.

But he failed to recover from the spin and onlookers watched in horror as his Edge 360 plane crashed to the ground less than 100 metres away.

Despite the best efforts of emergency services, who were called just after 2.40pm, and others who were there, police confirmed that he died at the scene.

Aftermath of the crash during aerobatics display  at Old Buckenham Airfield, killing the pilot. Photo : Sonya DuncanAftermath of the crash during aerobatics display at Old Buckenham Airfield, killing the pilot. Photo : Sonya Duncan

Tributes have been paid to Mr Jenkins, who was a two-time British advanced aerobatics champion and who has been described as a “true professional” and “one of the best pilots around”.

The Wildcats issued a statement on their website last night which said: “It is with great sadness that Wildcat Aerobatics confirm the death of David Jenkins – ‘Wildcat 3’.

“David was killed during an aerobatic practice at Old Buckenham airfield on Wednesday 22 April 2015.The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has been informed.”

The statement added: “David joined Wildcat Aerobatics in 2013, to bring a new dynamic to our existing two-ship display by flying his Edge alongside our two Pitts Specials. We were honoured to fly alongside him.

Factfile: Wildcat Aerobatics

Wildcat Aerobatics, which was formed in 2010, was established to try and promote aerial sport flying through crowd-thrilling formation aerobatic display that entertains hundreds of thousands of spectators every year.

Over the years, the team has developed a unique and excitingly choreographed airshow act that brings together unbelievably close-formation aerobatics, precision pairs synchronized flying and the extreme physical demands of flicking and tumbling in a high performance Red Bull air-racer.

The display fleet is made up of a pair of iconic Pitts Special biplanes joined by an Edge 360 high performance monoplane.

Wildcat Aerobatics also provides introductory flights to people eager to experience the thrills of flying formation aerobatics.

“David was highly respected on the ground and in the air and will be greatly missed. His family and friends are very much in our thoughts, and we ask that you respect everyone’s privacy at this difficult time.”

Peter Spencer, secretary of the Fersfield Flying Group, based in south Norfolk, said: “He was a wonderful pilot. I first joined the air group 22 years ago and he was my hangar neighbour and he was always there for advice and support.

“He welcomed me into the group and he was a good friend.”

Simon Garrett, a pilot who flew out of the airfield yesterday morning, said he only found out about the news when he returned last night.

Old Buckenham Airshow

The Old Buckenham Airshow is one of the biggest of its kind in Norfolk and Suffolk.

It attracts thousands each year with its impressive display of aircraft and vehicles, vintage dance event and newly-launched food village.

Visitors can also enjoy tank rides, monster trucks, classic cars and a funfair.

The world-renowned Spitfire MH434 and Mustang ‘Ferocious Frankie’ both make appearances at the show and in 2012 aviator and airshow commentator Brendan O’Brien broke a world record for the shortest distant truck top landing recorded.

The former Second World War base was home to the USAAF 453rd Bombardment Group, where Major James Stewart – better known as Oscar-winner Jimmy Stewart – was operations officer.

This year, to mark 70 years from the end of the Second World War, a special American theme has been planned.

It hopes to commemorate the 366 servicemen who died while serving at the airbase.

He said: “We were due to land back here, but were diverted because of this emergency. We didn’t know anybody had died until now.

“It is a terrible tragedy and very unusual because the teams involved are highly skilled.

“I knew the gentleman involved and he was very experienced.”

Matt Wilkins, airfield manager, said that the incident would be passed to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch and the police.

Ambulance, fire crews from Attleborough, Long Stratton and Wymondham, police officers and the air ambulance all attended.

The airfield was cordoned off at the entrance and the seal was expected to stay in place overnight.

A file will be prepared and passed to the coroner.

David Jenkins - champion aerobatics pilot

According to his profile on the Wildcats website David Jenkins was introduced to flying when he was just a teenager hanging around at Panshangar airfield near Welwyn Garden City.

After a career in fibre optics, he was persuaded to get his private pilots licence by a work colleague who had a pilots licence.

He started flying in 1985 and has been flying aerobatics for over 10 years.

He borrowed a friends aircraft for a couple of years and started aerobatic competition until, in 2004 he purchased his first aircraft - a homebuilt single seat laser in which he won many competitions.

In 2009 he sold the laser and was able to purchase a second-hand carbon fibre Edge aircraft in the US and imported it to the UK where he has been competing and displaying with it.

He rebuilt the aircraft and maintained it himself.

Since starting competing, he has been a regular competitor at UK aerobatics competitions, winning over 40 medals including:

• British Advanced National Champion 2013 and 2012.

• British Advanced aerobatic team member at World championships 2012.

• British Advanced aerobatic team member at European championships 2011.

• Swinstead trophy winner as leader of the intermediate annual points table in 2008 and 2009.

• British standard aerobatics champion 2005.

• Swinstead trophy winner as leader of the intermediate annual points table in 2008 and 2009.

• winner of the historic Tiger trophy competing against 50 competitors at all levels in the UK

He has held a Civil Aviation Authority display authorisation since 2006 and regularly gives private and public displays.

He joined the Wildcat display team in 2013 to help provide a novel three aircraft display with his Edge providing an exciting dynamic solo display co-ordinated with the Pitts formation display.

•Would you like to pay tribute to Mr Jenkins? Email reporter Lauren Cope on lauren.cope@archant.co.uk

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