Battle of Britain Memorial Flight 'temporarily paused' after death of pilot in Spitfire crash

The Royal Air Force has temporarily grounded the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) after the death of a pilot.

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

The RAF confirmed that while an investigation into the cause of the crash takes place BBMF aircraft will not fly.

A spokesperson said: "Following the tragic accident at RAF Coningsby, and while the formal investigation is ongoing, the RAF has instigated a temporary pause in flying for the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight."

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

There had been planned displays throughout the year, the next being the Midlands Air Festival from 31 May to 2 June, according to a BBMF schedule on Facebook.

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

He was described by Group Captain Robbie Lees as a "great friend, colleague, and a passionate, professional aviator he will be sorely missed by all that knew him".

Having been introduced to flying as a child, Mr Long joined the RAF and rose to pilot the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet.

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Gp Capt Lees said: "I would like to extend a sincere thank you to the RAF personnel and our emergency services colleagues who responded so swiftly yesterday.

"Our thoughts remain with Mark's family and friends to whom we offer our deepest sympathies. We ask that their privacy be respected at this tragic and shocking time."

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.