Published: 00:01, 28 August 2016
A stunt plane which dramatically ditched in the sea at Herne Bay Air Show may have been brought down by a balloon, it's emerged.
Air crash investigators are exploring the theory that the single-seater plane “ingested” the balloon before hurtling into the water.
VIDEO: The moment the plane ditched into the sea.
Our photo – taken moments before the aircraft developed critical engine failure – shows it flying headlong towards an orange balloon.
Stunned crowds watched helplessly as experienced pilot Colyn Randall was forced to bring his plane down during a display of aerial acrobatics.
As it hit the surface just yards from the beachfront the craft flipped, trapping Mr Randall beneath the upturned fuselage.
The heroics of spectators who rushed to his aid and dragged him to safety have since made national headlines.
An immediate probe into the accident was launched by the government’s Air Crash Investigation Branch.
Today we can reveal that one line of inquiry is whether the plane was brought down by a prop used by the stunt team to wow the crowds.
Part of The Turbulent Display Team’s routine involves popping balloons during breath-taking manoeuvres.
An AAIB spokesman confirmed: “The possibility that the engine power loss was as a result of ingesting a fragment of balloon following a balloon bursting display is just one of the aspects being considered by investigation.
“The investigation will also consider other aspects of the event and a comprehensive report will be published in due course.”
Fortunately, Mr Randall, who started his flying career in 1976, walked away from the accident with only minor injuries.
Samantha Williams, Turbulent’s spokesman, said the pilot had realised during the display that there was a problem with his aircraft’s 1600cc engine.
Speaking shortly after the accident the weekend before last, she said: “The pilots are always checking for problems and when he was aware there was one he broke away from the formation.
“He looked to see if there was any way he could solve the problem, but there wasn’t a way so he called mayday and ditched it in the water away from the display line and any people. It was what we would call a textbook example.”
Mrs Williams added that Mr Randall was keen to return to flying, and that he would be joining The Turbulent Display Team’s next performance at an air show in Surrey this weekend.
She said this week: “We are working with the AAIB to fully cooperate with their investigation and at such time the report is published we will be making a statement.
“The Civil Aviation Authority has given the Turbulent Display Team permission to display at Dunsfold Wings and Wheels in Surrey this weekend.”
Mrs Williams confirmed it would include the balloon bursting routine.
“The CAA has granted us permission to fly our full routine – formation flying, flour bombing, balloon popping and waving run,” she said.
“They have full authority to change that anytime between now and the show, as they do for all teams, but currently we have permission to proceed as normal.”
Air show organiser Gerald McCarthy says the BayPromoTeam has met with the AAIB and is assisting with its investigation.
More by this authorChris Pragnell