Sky drama as bird downs Red Arrow

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THERE was a dramatic end to Blackpool Air Show after a bird strike forced one of the iconic Red Arrows to make an emergency landing.

Fire and ambulance crews were put on standby at Blackpool Airport when a pilot in the acrobatic fleet put in a Mayday call on Sunday afternoon.

The planes were on their way to Hawarden Airport in Cheshire shortly after the show when a collision with a bird meant the pilot was forced to make a swift landing.

Stuart Briggs, 47, an eyewitness of Stony Hill Avenue, South Shore saw the drama unfold.

He told The Gazette: “I saw the plane coming back in a southerly direction towards the airfield.

“It was trailing white smoke which was different to the normal density and going at a much reduced speed. You could actually smell the unburnt fuel as it went past.

“We heard the crash alarm going off at the air field and saw the emergency vehicles rushing to meet the plane.

“The landing was smooth, but the pilot was looking a bit ashen faced when he got out.

“He went to sit down and had a cigarette, later he went for a cup of tea and we watched the firemen pushing the plane off the main runway.”

Just eight planes took part in Sunday’s display as both the reserve plane and another craft were out of action.

Despite a gloomy start, the clouds above the resort cleared so the fleet could pull off their breath taking stunts with their plumes of smoke visible against a blue sky.

Gemma Summerfield, from the Red Arrows, confirmed an aircraft had hit a bird, which led to the unplanned landing.

She said: “The display was able to go ahead as scheduled and the pilot was able to land the plane safely after the bird strike.

“Unfortunately we are unable to ask the birds not to fly in the area where we’re scheduled to appear.

“The plane has suffered intake damage and will go to the Hawk Support Authority so they can assess the damage.”

The aircraft remains at Blackpool Airport today.

Sue Kendrick, spokesman for the Squires Gate hub, said: “We received a Mayday call shortly after the air show from Red Seven.

“Emergency services at Blackpool Airport were put on standby, but thankfully all was well and the aircraft landed safely.”

Tourism bosses say the resort enjoyed a welcome boost as crowds gathered to enjoy the display.