An RAF Tornado navigator died over South Creake, Norfolk, yesterday in a bizarre accident...

RAF Tornado navigator dies as ejector seat throws him from upside-down plane

15th November 2007
Daily Mail

A navigator from an RAF Tornado was killed when his ejector seat fired as the fighter plane flew upside down.

The Ministry of Defence said Mike Harland "exited" the 1,400mph jet during an inverted roll over Norfolk at about 4pm on Wednesday during a routine test flight by BAE Systems.

His body was found in a field near South Creake about 45 minutes later and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Inquiry: The scene at South Creake, Norfolk, after Mike Harland's body was found

Mr Harland, 44, was married with two children and lived in Lincolnshire.

Nigel Whitehead, of BAE Systems, said: "Mike worked for BAE Systems for four years and was a well-known and much respected member of the team."

He added: "It would be wrong to speculate on the circumstances surrounding the incident at this time and it would be inappropriate of us to do so at present as there will be an MoD Board of Inquiry.

"We will give our full support to this inquiry."

Earlier an RAF source said: "It appears that there may have been something wrong with the ejector mechanism as the plane had just been serviced.

Manouevre: A file picture of a Tornado flying upside down

"When the jet went upside down, it was enough to set it off. It is being treated as an awful accident."

The pilot, who also works for BAE Systems, landed safely at his home base around 30 miles away at RAF Marham near King's Lynn.

He is understood to have made an emergency radio call to report that the engineer was missing and that he had not seen a parachute after the seat ejected.

RAF Marham spokesman Rem Merrick said: "No other aircraft were involved in the incident."

The area where Mr Harland's body was found has been sealed off as forensic examinations were carried out.

BAE Systems employs about 250 people at RAF Marham and holds a 130million contract to maintain and upgrade the RAF's fleet of Tornado GR4 aircraft.

The navigator was ejected from an RAF Tornado fighter like this one during a test flight