Red Arrows pilot injured as jets collide during training

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The Independent Online

A Red Arrows pilot was in hospital last night after two of the military aerobatic jets collided in mid-air during a training exercise in Crete.

In what is thought to be the first mid-air collision involving the Arrows since the 1970s, the aircraft clipped wings while performing a manoeuvre which involved flying towards each other at speeds of up to 500mph before turning away at the last minute.

Flight Lieutenant Mike Ling, or Red 6 as he is known in the team, had to eject and was taken to hospital with injuries which are not life-threatening. The other pilot, Dave Montenegro, Red 7, landed his plane. The crash happened just before midday, UK time and Flt Lt Ling's plane was destroyed.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We can confirm that an incident has occurred involving the Red Arrows whilst undertaking pre-season training at Hellenic Air Force Base, Kastelli, in Crete, and one pilot ejected and has been taken to hospital and the other one landed safely."

The spokesman was unable to provide details of the injured pilot's condition. Police in Crete said he suffered a dislocated shoulder after ejecting from his aircraft before it crashed.

The nine-strong Red Arrows team arrived on the Greek island on Sunday for the first stage of Exercise Springhawk, a training programme ahead of their first public display in May.

Ten Hawks and a C130 Hercules left Scampton in Lincolnshire on Saturday and travelled to Crete via France and Italy.

Upon their arrival, before the crash, Red 4, Flight Lieutenant Dave Davies, said: "Everyone has been really friendly and we are all in good spirits. The transit here all went to plan and the set up for us at Kastelli is excellent. We've flown two trips today [Monday] and are getting used to our new surroundings.

"There are big hills to consider for our rear crowd arrival and the higher temperatures have changed the handling of the aircraft a little but it is going well so far."

He added: "As well as flying we are still training hard for the London Marathon. We have been out running to keep to our training schedule plus it gives us a great opportunity to have a good look around."

Earlier this year Flight Lieutenant Kirsty Moore became the first female pilot to join the Red Arrows' in its 46-year history.