A Red Arrows pilot died when his plane crashed following an air show, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said tonight.
Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging's Hawk T1 aircraft plunged to the ground near Bournemouth Airport in Dorset at 1.50pm.
Eyewitnesses saw the plane flying low before smashing into a field and coming to a standstill with its nose in the River Stour near the village of Throop.
Dorset Police said the pilot had been thrown from the aircraft and was pronounced dead at the scene.
An MoD spokesman said: "A full service inquiry into the details of the crash has been initiated. It would be inappropriate to speculate on the causes of the incident at this time."
Nicholas Gore, 22, from Throop, was walking with a friend close to the river when he saw all nine Red Arrows overhead following the display over the seafront at the Bournemouth Air Festival.
"There were quite a few people watching and we saw them go over but one seemed quite low," he said.
"They then disappeared behind trees and I heard a crack - not an explosion - just a crack and we got further down and I saw the plane with its red tail in the air and its nose in the river.
"Shortly afterwards there were emergency services everywhere."
One eyewitness, who did not want to be named, said the plane had skidded for several hundred metres along the riverbank after it crashed.
Mark Grogan was playing a round of golf nearby at the time of the crash.
"I heard a sound like a car backfiring," he said.
Mr Grogan added: "Within five minutes the helicopters arrived, there were at least five helicopters including the police and two from the coastguard.
"One of the local farmers said they'd seen rescue teams pulling the pilot out of the river."
Chief Inspector Steve White, of Dorset Police, said: "On approach to the airport one aircraft crashed into a field near Throop Mill, Bournemouth.
"The aircraft came to rest on the banks of the River Stour, and the emergency services including police, fire, ambulance, coastguard search and rescue and a Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance attended.
"Sadly the pilot, who had been thrown from the aircraft, was pronounced dead at the scene."
He said the emergency services responded as soon as they received information of the crash, and added that he did not know whether the pilot ejected from the aircraft.
Group Captain Simon Blake, the Commandant of the RAF's Central Flying School, described the 33-year-old pilot from Rutland as "a true team player".
He said: "Flt Lt Jon Egging, known as Eggman, joined the team as Red 4 in the autumn of 2010.
"A gifted aviator, he was chosen to fly in the Red 4 slot, on the right hand outside of the famous diamond nine formation - an accolade in itself being the most demanding position allocated to a first year pilot.
"Throughout his winter training and the display season to date, his professionalism, skill and humility have shone through.
"A true team player, his good nature and constant smile will be sorely missed by all. In such a close knit team, this tragedy will be keenly felt by his fellow team members, the Reds, and all of the engineering and support staff, the Blues."
Air Vice Marshal Mark Green, Air Officer Commanding 22 (Training) Group, said: "I first met Flt Lt Jon Egging in 2003 when I became his station commander. Even at that early stage in his career Jon's professionalism, competence and ever present smile made him stand out from the crowd. Hence, his eventual selection for duties with the Red Arrows came as no surprise.
"His time with the team was typified by the characteristics that were Jon's trademark: professionalism, enthusiasm for life and a willingness to help others that transcended all boundaries.
"Jon will be sorely missed by all those that had the privilege to know him; our thoughts and prayers are with Jon's family and friends at this tragic time."
Flt Lt Egging was inspired to fly by his airline pilot father, who used to let him into the cockpit for takeoff and landing.
He joined the RAF in 2000 and served with IV(AC) Squadron based at RAF Cottesmore, flying the Harrier GR9 in support of coalition forces in Afghanistan.
In April last year he moved on to teach at the Harrier Operational Conversion Unit at RAF Wittering, Cambridgeshire.
He enjoyed running and travelling with his wife, Emma.
Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox said: "It was with great sadness that I heard of the death of Flt Lt Jon Egging whilst performing with the Red Arrows today.
"He was a gifted aviator who was selected for one of the most demanding flying jobs in the RAF.
"Joining the Red Arrows was his lifetime ambition and he performed with great skill whilst on the team. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Emma and his family and friends at this terrible time."
Since 1979, the Red Arrows have used the dual control BAE Systems Hawk T1 aircraft.
According to the aerobatic team's website, the planes' Rolls-Royce engines produce 5,200lbs of thrust and give a top speed of Mach 1.2.
They have been based at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire since 2001.Reuse content