Pilot is killed as spy plane crashes

US Air Force crash: Victim is believed to have been flying reconnaissan ce mission to support UN forces in Bosnia
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A United States Air Force pilot died yesterday after a U2 "spy plane" crashed as it took off from Gloucestershire on what was believed to be a reconnaissance mission to Bosnia.

USAF officers from Mildenhall in Suffolk were yesterday investigating the accident, which took place as the jet left RAF Fairford at about 7am. An RAF spokeswoman said: "I understand the pilot had difficulty on landing, so he ejected."

Captain David Hawker was found 200 feet from the wreckage. He was airlifted to Princess Margaret Hospital in Swindon, Wiltshire, where he died from multiple injuries.

Simon Rayner, aged 15, who watched the aircraft burst into flames 500 metres from his home in Kempsford, said: "I heard the plane's thrust reversers come on as it landed but then there was a huge bang which shook all the windows."

The US Air Force is refusing to speculate on the cause of the accident, but early reports suggest that one of the "stabilisers" under the wings may have not detached itself, thereby unbalancing the wide-winged aircraft. It is understood that the jet was taking off for a mission to Bosnia, where officials from Nato and the United Nations are considering mounting air strikes in retaliation for Monday's attack on a Sarajevo market which left 37 people dead

The aircraft which crashed was a U2R version assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale air force base, California. It was one of three U2s based at RAF Fairford since the base at Alconbury, Cambridgeshire, closed in March.