RAF Pilot Dies In Spitfire Crash


Likely for the first time in decades, an active-duty Royal Air Force pilot died in the crash of a Spitfire on Saturday. Squadron Leader Mark Long was taking part in a display by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight at RAF Coningsby in northwest England. The aircraft reportedly suffered an engine failure on takeoff and came down in a field about 1:20 p.m. local time. It flipped and ended up within a few feet of a house. “It is with great sadness that we must confirm the death of an RAF pilot in a tragic accident near RAF Coningsby today. “The pilot’s family have been informed and we ask that their privacy is respected at this difficult time.”

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight is based at Coningsby and participates in airshows and flypasts throughout the country as a tribute to the wartime exploits of British and Allied pilots. The unit had six Spitfires, two Hurricanes, a Lancaster, a C-47 and two Chipmunks used for training. They’re all flown by frontline RAF pilots. Long was a former Typhoon fighter pilot and had been flying with the display squadron for four years. The crash airplane was a LF.XVIe model and was built in 1944.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. It was dangerous at the time; more so some 80 years later.
    Hate to say it but like WWI aircraft, It may be time to retire these mechanical relics.

    • So who picks the arbitrary date then? I agree, these treasures can be safely maintained. From the foto, this one will be rebuilt (my humble opinion). Sad loss of a capable pilot. Meanwhile we wait for the RAF accident report.

    • …and I strongly disagree with you. If those “less than reliable parts” were less than reliable, they would never have been sent into the rigors of aerial combat. Pilots have flown on those “less than reliable parts” designed in the earliest days of WWII, since the earliest days of WWII.

    • Because you, in the comfort of your home in 2024, can make blanket assessment of the historical value of these treasured “relics” and the meticulous, concentrated efforts to maintain and flying them? The skills of keeping these flying museums in the air is secondary to your completely baseless opinion?
      Every time they leave the ground there are men and women who have the knowledge, skill and dedication to make sure as best as humanly possible that the aircraft and pilot return safely.
      I’ll bet a year of my retirement that these planes are better maintained than your car.

  2. ‘Flying is hypnotic and all pilots are willing victims to the spell.’
    – Ernest K. Gann

    He also said that we all pay a price for motion.

    Everything is dangerous!
    But in a well maintained WWII aircraft
    Flown by a competent pilot
    One can stay inside the envelope

    • I strongly disagree with that statement. One cannot stay reliably inside the envelope when operating a machine that, even when new, was constructed with less than reliable mechanic parts. Well maintained is good but not bullet proof.

      • …and I strongly disagree with you. If those “less than reliable parts” were less than reliable, they would never have been sent into the rigors of aerial combat. Pilots have flown on those “less than reliable parts” designed in the earliest days of WWII, since the earliest days of WWII.

        • It’s all relative. During the days that these airplanes and parts were designed and built, they were the most reliable at that time. Times have changed and those parts are not the most reliable anymore. I flew well maintained Beech 18’s and DC-3’s and have had many more problems in those than in the King Air I flew. Even newly rebuilt Merlin engines have their limitations. The whole point here is, do we still “need” to take the calculated risk of flying these machines.

  3. Sad to read about. And yes, they are “dangerous”. But that is a global assessment lacking specifics. Ya gotta specify the specific danger, the specific minimization and prevention techniques employed, including pilot proficiency before you make the generalization. In comparison, people die in Cessna 150’s and 172’s and Beech Bonanza’s…all due to varying conditions and different factors. And you can never dismiss “luck”: the unpredictable factors that contribute to outcomes.

  4. Please leave the discussion on whether to fly warbirds or not out of this… an aviator passed away, out of respect for him please leave the discussion at home.
    Per ardua ad astra. RIP.

  5. In every aviation endeavor there is an element of risk. Sometimes it reaches out to bite us. That is when we attend someone’s funeral. We cannot fly and not accept the risk the we, or someone else, is going to pay the ultimate price.

    However, consider how boring life would be if we eliminated risk from our lives. I, for one, am going to keep accepting that risk in order to fly to interesting places, fly aerobatics, and continue to teach.

  6. I fly two 1943 warbirds; trainers; carefully, respectfully, but fly them.
    They are kept in excellent condition.
    I also fly a 1960 civilian aircraft; also, carefully respectfully, and it is kept well.
    Also fly a lot of other aircraft of various vintages.
    I flew lots of jets that had tens of thousands of cycles on them; they were also well kept.
    If they are looked after, they are good to fly.
    One suspects that the BBMF keeps their aircraft quite well!
    Bad things happen, even in younger equipment.
    Hopefully the cause of the problem will be found and not repeated.

  7. Is the thinking that a machine produced circa early 1940’s is as reliable as a machine produced in say the early 2000’s?

  8. Guy died in a Sea Fury back in the 90’s (at Lakeland?) when it flipped over. I believe it was Richard Hillary (for one) that mentioned guys unstrapping after a flip-over accident being what got them. Absolutely don’t know what happened here, just reminded of those things.

  9. And new and complex doesn’t necessarily mean safer and better (in every way). Flying’s just a bit (or a lot) more dangerous than staying down here. Same can be said for boating, and etc.

  10. Don’t know what the problem is but clicking on the “comment” flags the post, sorry jethro.

    Because an aircraft is old doesn’t belie its reliability, have had a PT6 catastrophically fail and only had 1,000 hours on since new (brand new King Air), also our operation had four hand grenade engine failures of Turbomeca turbines in the fleet of six S-76C, all blade failures in the hot end, and not resulting from abuse, hard worked yes. The S-76 with the Allison engine had its problems as well.

  11. These aircraft were realistically designed for 100 hours of combat and many made it anywhere near that many hours.

    Not saying that’s the cause, but in response to other posting here.