Moment WWI replica biplane plummets nose-first towards the ground

Heart-stopping moment WWI replica biplane plummets nose-first towards the ground after it spun out of control during mock dogfight – as pilot is pulled alive from crash

  • Accident happened yesterday morning in Sywell aerodrome in Nottinghamshire
  • Photos show Matthew Boddington’s plane spiral out of control and crash land
  • Airman was taken to hospital but is thought not to have suffered serious injuries  
  • Team leader Gordon Brander said pilot was in ‘good condition’ and would be fine 
  • The plane involved was a Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c, featured in Biggles film
  • Pilots had been participating in UK-German WW1 ‘mock dogfight’ before crash 

This is the dramatic moment a World War One replica military aeroplane plummeted to the ground in a crash yesterday which the pilot miraculously survived.

Photos show Matthew Boddington’s replica of the Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c spinning out of control before crashing in Sywell aerodrome in Nottinghamshire. 

The airman, who has been described as one of Britain’s most expert vintage pilots, was taken to hospital but is understood not to have suffered any serious injuries.

Mr Boddington had been participating in a mock dogfight between British and German World War aircraft when the plane hurtled to the ground.

His wife, Diane, told MailOnline: ‘Matthew was the pilot involved in the crash.’ 

Steve Slater, who was co-owner of the vintage aircraft said: ‘Matthew Boddington was pilot of the BE [aircraft] that crashed. While I don’t know his precise medical condition he appears not to have suffered any serious injury. 

‘Matthew is among the top most experienced vintage aircraft pilots in the country. 

Photos show Matthew Boddington’s replica of the Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c spinning out of control before crashing in Sywell aerodrome in Nottinghamshire

Photos show Matthew Boddington’s replica of the Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c spinning out of control before crashing in Sywell aerodrome in Nottinghamshire

Photos show Matthew Boddington’s replica of the Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c spinning out of control before crashing in Sywell aerodrome in Nottinghamshire

Mr Boddington was described by friends as one of the UK’s most expert vintage aircraft pilots  

‘And while we don’t try know what happened to make the plane lose control Matthew managed to wrestle it back and it landed with its wings level to the ground. 

‘Those old aircraft are as tough as old Work War One boots, solid, so that would have protected him.’ 

He added: ‘Matthew and I own the plane together. We spent six years rebuilding it after we found it abandoned in a barn in America.’ 

It is said to have spun out of control and hurtled nose down into Sywell aerodrome in Northamptonshire.

Incredibly he was found in ‘good condition’ by ambulance crews who rushed to the scene and one pal said he was expected to recover.

The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch yesterday sent a team to begin looking into what had happened. 

A pilot of Britain’s first-ever military aeroplane survived a crash following a mock dogfight

The pilot, Matthew Boddington, was inside a replica of the Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c

The aircraft involved in the crash was a Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c which is designed for two

Matthew Boddington, pictured right, was involved in yesterday’s forced landing

The plane – which was featured in film ‘Biggles Sweeps the Skies’ – was restored by co-owners Mr Boddington and Mr Slater.

It was part of the The Bremont Great War Display Team and leader Gordon Brander confirmed the pilot was fine.

He said: ‘I was up the air with him at the time but we were all pointing in different directions as part of our routine so I didn’t see him come down.

‘The first I saw of it was when I flew over where he crashed and I did think the worst. I thought ‘fingers crossed he is ok’.

‘Thankfully he has just cuts and bruises and a cracked rib. He should be in hospital for another couple of days. He is there with his family by his side.

‘We are all very experienced pilots. There are 10 to 12 of us and most us are ex airline or ex military. It was a BE2 that came down. 

‘First World War aircrafts are quite primitive and rather delicate so we don’t do hugely acrobatic displays. It is more recreating dog fights and we were due to perform at Duxford in three weeks time, but now that is looking unlikely. 

Emergency crews were seen at the site this afternoon dealing with the aftermath of the crash

Two of the planes before they took off for the display run-through in the skies yesterday

‘Because of Covid we hadn’t been practicing that much so we thought we would get some airtime in. They are quite fragile aircraft so he is quite lucky, we are all glad he isn’t too badly injured.’

The Royal Aircraft Factory BE2 

The Royal Aircraft Factory BE2 was a British single-engine tractor two-seat biplane designed and developed at the Royal Aircraft Factory.

Most production aircraft were constructed under contract by various private companies, both established aircraft manufacturers and firms that had not previously built aircraft. 3,500 were manufactured in all.

Early versions of the BE2 entered squadron service with the Royal Flying Corps in 1912; the type continued to serve throughout the First World War. It was initially used as a front-line reconnaissance aircraft and light bomber; modified as a single-seater it proved effective as a night fighter, destroying several German airships.

By late 1915, the BE2 was proving inadequate in defending itself against German fighters such as the then-new Fokker Eindecker, leading to increased losses during the period known as the Fokker Scourge. 

He told MailOnline: ‘He is actually in good condition. They say that he is going to be fine. We have no idea what happened. 

‘We are just waiting to speak to the police and the air authorities now.

‘The aircraft was a Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c. It is a two seater but only one person was in it at the time.’ 

East Midlands Ambulance Service were called to the crash at 11.39am and said they had transferred an injured patient to hospital. 

Another pilot told MailOnline: ‘The whole airfield has been closed down.

‘There were German biplanes and triplanes bearing the Iron Cross insignia battling it out with their British rivals when the British plane crashed.

‘Some of the planes are replicas, some are originals which have been lovingly restored.’

A spokesman for Northamptonshire Police said: ‘We were called about it at 11.50am and are working with other emergency services at the scene including Fire, EMAS and the Air Ambulance.

‘One person (the pilot) is currently being treated at the scene for their injuries.’  

A company called Air Leasing Ltd is also based at the aerodrome, which specialises in the maintenance and operation of World War II era fighters.

It is run by the mother and son team of Carolyn and Richard Grace.

An ambulance spokesperson said: ‘The caller reported a light aircraft crash. We sent a paramedic in an ambulance car, a crewed ambulance and the air ambulance was also in attendance.

‘We transported one patient to Coventry and Walsgrave Hospital via land ambulance.’

Dogfights are aerial battles between fighter aircraft conducted at close range.

Mr Boddington was involved in a mock aerial dogfight when his aircraft crashed

They first occurred in Mexico in 1913, shortly after the invention of the airplane. Until at least 1992, it was a component in every major war, despite beliefs after World War II that increasingly greater speeds and longer-range weapons would make dogfighting obsolete.

In mock dogfights, each pilot tries to manoeuvre their plane behind their opponent’s to take a ‘clean shot’ – or what would be a clean shot if engaged in real combat. 

It starts when fighters from one side move to intercept fighters from the other. Intercepting planes approach the perceived intruders and attempt to drive them off-course or harass them until they leave the area.

If the intruders don’t break off, the planes begin to circle each other with a series of high-speed turns and rolls.

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