RAF blames sixth crash on bad luck

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One of the RAF's newest Harrier jump jets crashed yesterday only a few miles south-east of its home base at Wittering, Leicestershire, after a long flight from Cyprus, writes Christopher Bellamy.

It is the sixth military planelost in five weeks, but the RAF blamed the losses on bad luck, not on a particular problem.

The Harrier GR7 was one of four planes returning to Wittering when the pilot clearly realised something was wrong. He ejected and the aircraft crashed in open country at 1.35pm yesterday.

The pilot landed and reached a nearby farmhouse. The MoD said he had "minor injuries" .

Since mid-January the RAF has lost three Tornados, a Hawk trainer and the Harrier which crashed yesterday. The Navy also lost a Sea Harrier, which crashed last week in operations over former Yugoslavia."There is no discernible pattern to all this," an MoD spokesman said. "In some years the number of aircraft which crash will be more than average, in others less than average.

"But it's very concerning. People are very upset about it."