Ex-Luftwaffe pilot crashes near city he bombed

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The Independent Online

A decorated Luftwaffe pilot who carried out 120 bombing raids in England escaped unharmed after a plane crash near the city he once tried to destroy, it emerged today.

Second World War bomber Willi Schludecker, 88, carried out three missions over Bath in Somerset in 1942. He was in a light aircraft with new friend Chris Kilminster, 61, when the engine failed last Friday.

Experienced pilot Richard Flohr-Swann made an emergency landing after the aircraft's engine malfunctioned soon after take-off at Marshfield near Bath.

Mr Kilminster, who was on his maiden flight, said: "It was a potentially life-threatening incident, but Willi was absolutely relaxed. He just hugged me afterwards.

"That was Willi's 10th crash - he has had nine in his flying career, but this was his first civilian one. He was as happy as a lark afterwards.

"The pilot saved our lives, because he guided us past the trees. He does have 27 world records so that must have helped.

"We went from 120mph to nothing in just a few seconds. The engine cut out completely."

The flight was to thank Mr Kilminster for organising an event in April when Herr Schludecker attended to make a reconciliation speech, saying sorry for the "dreadful harm" he had done in his Dornier 217E-4.

Mr Kilminster said: "The flight was a thank you to me for organising the event earlier this year, and I am going to go up again.

"I lost a lot of relatives in the bombing so it took some time, but now I have become really, really close friends with Willi. We don't speak the same language but it feels like we can communicate just by eye contact."

Also in the plane was Adam Koronda, a film-maker making a documentary about Herr Schludecker, who was twice awarded the Iron Cross after carrying out 120 raids in England between April and July 1942. The average survival time for a German bomber was just seven missions.

After last week's crash, the Mooney M20T plane was vandalised by thieves, causing £30,000 damage.