TRIBUTES have been paid to the Red Arrows pilot who died in a ground incident at RAF Scampton yesterday (Tues 8th November)
Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham from Coventry was killed at the base after he was ejected from the aircraft whilst it was on the ground.
The 35-year-old was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, before moving to the UK in 1986 at the age of nine.
Although a profession in football was a possibility, he followed his dream to become a fast jet pilot in the Royal Air Force after attending Ernesford Grange School in Coventry and studying Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Nottingham Trent University.
He joined the RAF in 2000, and had since flown with the 617 Dambuster Squadron based at Lossiemouth and was involved in several operational tours over Iraq before being selected to fly for the Red Arrows in 2010.
Sean’s family - father Jim, mother Monika and sister Nicolette - said: “Sean was first and foremost a much-loved son and brother who will be dearly missed by all of his family, and his many good friends.”
“Since his childhood Sean had dreamed of flying fast jets in the Royal Air Force; through his hard work and dedication he achieved that dream, and the pinnacle of his career was to fly in the Red Arrows. Sean loved his flying and we hope that his life will be an inspiration to all those who share his dreams.”
“His fun-loving nature has never failed to put a smile on the faces of those who knew and loved him; this is how he will be remembered.”
They added: “We ask that the media please allow us the time and space required to come to terms with what has happened.”
Commandant of the RAF’s Central Flying School Group Captain Simon Blake said: “This year, Sean had commenced training as Red 5 and was the senior member of the ‘front 5’, affectionately known as ‘Enid’, and thus had the unofficial mantle of ‘Uncle Enid’ - a key position in mentoring and helping to train the new pilots to the team.”
He continued: “His constant smile, energy, and joie de vivre was infectious, and he will be sorely missed by his fellow pilots, the entire Red Arrows team, and his many colleagues and friends in the wider Royal Air Force.”
“Our heartfelt sorrow and sympathy go out to his family and all those whose lives he touched.”
The Military of Defence has since suspended flights in aircraft fitted with ejector seats similar to the one in which Flt Lt Cunningham was killed.
An MoD spokesman said: “The safety of our crews remains our paramount concern.”
“All non-essential RAF flying on aircraft fitted with a similar ejector seat to the Hawk T1 has been temporarily suspended.”
The Military Aviation Authority is to launch a full and independent Service Inquiry into the incident.
The incident comes just a few months after the death of Flt Lt Jon Egging, who died in a crash following a display in Bournemouth.