Pilot ordered off-duty in search for her dead husband
THE wife of a Tornado pilot was asked to stand down from her role in a search-and-rescue operation when it emerged that her husband was one of the crew missing after a mid-air collision over the Moray Firth.
Flight Lieutenant Fiona Bailey was working at the Aeronautical Rescue Co-Ordination Centre (ARRC) at RAF Kinloss last week when reports came in that two Tornados had collided and crashed into the sea.
Her husband, Squadron Leader Samuel Bailey, 36, is still missing, presumed dead, along with Flt Lt Adam Sanders following the crash.
Flt Lt Bailey, a decorated search and rescue pilot, now works at ARRC and was taking part in a exercise in a different part of the building when the alarm was raised last Tuesday.
When she arrived at the HQ’s rescue centre, the search operation was in full swing.
She was stood down from the mission by her superiors who informed her the accident involved her husband’s squadron.
The two Tornado GR4 fast jets from nearby RAF Lossiemouth were on a training exercice when they collided in mid-air and crashed into the Moray Firth, 25 miles south of Wick. Two aircrew were found in the water, but one, Flt Lt Hywel Poole, 28, later died. The bodies of Sqd Ldr Bailey, who leaves a daugher, Erin, and Flt Lt Sanders, 27, have yet to be recovered.
A salvage operation is due to begin today after the two aircraft were located on the seabed.
Yesterday an RAF spokesman confirmed that colleagues of Flt Lt Bailey had intervened when it became clear her husband could be involved in the tragic crash.
He added: “She was completing training in a different part of ARRC when the accident happened. She returned to ARRC and was stood down immediately in case of the worst. She took no part whatsover in the co- ordination of the SAR response to the incident.”
Flt Lt Bailey was honoured in 2005 by then prime minister Tony Blair for her part in a rescue on the west coast. She and her search and rescue colleagues saved the life of a father who suffered serious head injuries after a fall while walking with his son on Skye.
Flt Lt Bailey was co-pilot in the operation, which took place in gale-force winds. Reports into the rescue revealed that the pilot and co-pilot employed great skill to handle the helicopter and prevent the winchman crashing into the rocky mountainside as he rescued the hillwalkers.
She and the team from RAF Sea King 202 Squadron were invited to a special Downing Street reception in tribute to their efforts. They were later presented with a Vodafone National Life Savers award at a gala luncheon at London’s Savoy Hotel.
In a recovery operation last week the GR4 fighter aircraft were found near each other at a depth of 165ft and 25 miles south of Wick.
The wreckage will play a key part in the official military investigation into what caused the tragedy.
Supply ships Ocean Star and Smit Yare arrived near the scene last week and the wreckage was quickly located the following day. The minehunter HMS Cattistock was also sent to the scene. The MoD spokesman said the Ocean Star and Cattistock have remained at the site and were working to pinpoint larger items on the seabed using sonar equipment.
Bangor-born Flt Lt Hywel Poole, 28, died in Raigmore Hospital in Inverness after being airlifted from the scene. The bodies of Sqn Ldr Bailey, 36, from Nottingham, and Flt Lt Sanders, 27, who grew up in Lancashire, have yet to be located. The sole survivor of the crash, who has not yet been named, is believed to have undergone a successful operation on his spine and was said yesterday to be “improving”. The spokesman said: “He is communicating, which is positive.”
The planes from 15 (Reserve) Sqn are used to train pilots and weapons operators.
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Thursday 20 June 2013
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