Battle of Britain Memorial Flight aircraft won't be part of D-Day anniversary after fatal Spitfire crash

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight aircraft will not take part in next week's D-Day anniversary events after the death of one of its pilots in a Spitfire crash.

Squadron Leader Mark Long was killed in the crash at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, just before 1.20pm on Saturday.

The cause of the crash is still unknown and the investigation by the Defence Air Investigation Branch (DAIB) is ongoing.

In a statement on Friday, an RAF spokesperson said: "At this stage, the cause of the incident remains unknown and therefore, after extensive consultation between the chief of the air staff and relevant senior RAF officers, it has been decided to continue the pause in flying for the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF).

"As always, flight safety remains the RAF's primary concern. Therefore, BBMF flying will only resume when it is safe and appropriate to do so.

"As a result, regretfully, BBMF aircraft are not expected to be able to participate in the forthcoming D-Day 80 Commemorations over 5 and 6 June 2024."

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BBMF flights had already been temporarily grounded in light of the incident at RAF Coningsby.

The BBMF involves wartime fighter and bomber aircraft - including Spitfires, Hurricanes, and Lancasters - that take part in air shows and memorial displays.

Displays are planned throughout the year, the next being the Midlands Air Festival from 31 May to 2 June, according to a BBMF schedule on Facebook.

Significantly, six Spitfires and six other BBMF aircraft were due to take part in the events marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day in Portsmouth and elsewhere on 5 and 6 June.

The RAF added that it is "routine" to temporarily pause a fleet of aircraft when such an incident occurs.

'Best boss we never had'

Mr Long was a pilot at Coningsby, where the BBMF operates, for the last four years.

Squadron Leader Mark Sugden described Mr Long as "the epitome of a military fighter pilot" and "the best boss that BBMF never had".

Wing Commander Andy Shaw added: "Mark was a humble, kind, generous family man as well as an outstanding fighter pilot, instructor, and display pilot. He will be deeply missed, and our thoughts are with his family and those who loved him at this time."

Mr Long learned to fly while he was a student at the University of Warwick. He lived in Lincolnshire with his wife and two daughters.

Lincolnshire Police said the pilot was the "sole occupant of the aircraft" and he died at the scene.

Following the pilot's death, tributes were paid by the Prince and Princess of Wales, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.