Crash pilot was Gulf war hero

A Royal Air Force pilot killed when his Hawk jet crashed was a Gulf war hero who was held captive for six weeks by President Saddam Hussein, it emerged yesterday.

Flight Lieutenant Simon Burgess, 28, died when his trainer jet crashed on Tuesday on take-off from RAF Valley on Anglesey, Gwynedd.

The experienced pilot, from Humberside, was on a routine solo mission checking the weather when the aircraft went out of control. He left the aircraft by ejector seat, but it is believed that his parachute failed to open.

In the Gulf war, he was part of a two-man crew who were forced to eject from their RAF Tornado GR1 during a night bombing mission over Iraq's southern command headquarters in Basra on 24 January 1991.

An investigation revealed later that one of the aircraft's 1,000lb bombs had exploded too soon after being released, sending the Tornado out of control.

The raid was Fl Lt Burgess's second sortie over Iraq and one of the heaviest nights of bombing carried out by the British task force until then.

He and his navigator, Squadron Leader Robert Ankerson, were captured by Iraqi civilians and handed to Saddam Hussein's troops.

At the time of his capture, Fl Lt Burgess was a 23-year-old Flying Officer, and the RAF's youngest pilot in the Gulf.

He was freed on 5 March, five days after the war ended, along with eight other British prisoners of war, including the Tornado navigator Fl Lt Adrian Nichol, who had been paraded on Iraqi television in a broadcast shown to the world.

Fl Lt Burgess - nicknamed "Budgie" - was a teenager when he gained his first RAF pilot's licence and won an award for his skills in low-level flying.

He and his wife, Nicola, were married in August 1990. His parents, Terry and Ann, live in Humberston, Humberside.

The RAF has launched a full investigation into Tuesday's accident.

Valley's station commander, Group Captain David Martin Jones, said: "It is a shock to us all because he was an extremely popular young man."

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