Pilot 'should be dead' after 69-year old fighter plane crash-landed and slammed into a tree at 130mph

Max Stephens
·4-min read
This dramatic photo shows the wreckage of a vintage British fighter plane The Hawker Sea Fury after it crashed during a routine flight in Button End near Duxford, Cambs - leaving the pilot and a passenger injured.See SWNS story SWCAcrash. This dramatic photo shows the wreckage of a vintage British fighter plane after it crashed during a routine flight - leaving the pilot and a passenger injured. The Hawker Sea Fury aircraft came down in a field at around 5.15pm yesterday evening (Tues), after having to make a forced landing, leading to the plane sustaining a fuel leak. The shocking photo shows the serious damage to the front of the plane, which appears to have been severed in two by the cockpit as it seemingly struck a tree on its way down. The pilot and a passenger both received medical attention at the scene, in Button End near Duxford, Cambs., after sustaining minor injuries in the crash. - Michael Hutchinson / SWNS.COM
This dramatic photo shows the wreckage of a vintage British fighter plane The Hawker Sea Fury after it crashed during a routine flight in Button End near Duxford, Cambs - leaving the pilot and a passenger injured.See SWNS story SWCAcrash. This dramatic photo shows the wreckage of a vintage British fighter plane after it crashed during a routine flight - leaving the pilot and a passenger injured. The Hawker Sea Fury aircraft came down in a field at around 5.15pm yesterday evening (Tues), after having to make a forced landing, leading to the plane sustaining a fuel leak. The shocking photo shows the serious damage to the front of the plane, which appears to have been severed in two by the cockpit as it seemingly struck a tree on its way down. The pilot and a passenger both received medical attention at the scene, in Button End near Duxford, Cambs., after sustaining minor injuries in the crash. - Michael Hutchinson / SWNS.COM

A pilot has said he 'should have been killed' after the 69-year-old fighter plane he was flying crash-landed in a field and slammed into a tree at 130mph. 

Dave Unwin, 59, had been in the cockpit of a 1951 Hawker Sea Fury with fellow test pilot Eskil Amdal, when disaster struck on Tuesday last week.  

Dave Unwin, 59, and test pilot Eskil Amdal had just performed a loop in a 1951 Hawker Sea Fury when the engine suddenly cut out at 2,000ft - SWNS
Dave Unwin, 59, and test pilot Eskil Amdal had just performed a loop in a 1951 Hawker Sea Fury when the engine suddenly cut out at 2,000ft - SWNS

The pair had been performing a series of aerial manoeuvres including rolls, loops and turns when their engine suddenly cut out, leaving the pair plummeting towards the ground.  

Eskil, a former Royal Norwegian Air Force test pilot, took control and tried to level the plane whilst co-pilot Dave searched for a field to land them in.

With no landing gear down, the multi-million pound plane - named ‘Invincible’ - hurtled out of the sky at 150mph, skidded across the field and crashed into a tree around five miles from Duxford.

Both pilots survived with no major injuries. Dave suffered three spinal fractures and a broken rib, as well as a “brilliant” array of cuts and bruises. 

A very rare vintage fighter plane crashed last night with two people on board. - SWNS
A very rare vintage fighter plane crashed last night with two people on board. - SWNS

The father-of-two, from Grimsthrope in Lincolnshire, spent two days at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge before being allowed to return home. Eskil has also been discharged. 

Mr Unwin,who has been flying for 35 years, said: “We should be dead; there’s no doubt in my mind, knowing what I do about flying and this particular aeroplane. 

"I know someone in the States who had basically the same problem in a Sea Fury and he didn’t get away with it. It’s a miracle we’re alive.” 

Mr Unwin added that the compression injuries and three spinal fractures has left him 2cms shorter than he was before the accident. 

 “I’m also 2cm shorter than I was last Monday, I was 172cm and now I’m 170cm. I was wanting to lose some weight but now I’ve got to add some height as well."

Dave said he and Eskil had gone flying as part of his job writing test reviews for Pilot magazine, in which he had written about a host of historical aircraft, including Spitfires and a Flying Fortress bomber.

Sea Furys were developed late in WWll and went in service after the war
Sea Furys were developed late in WWll and went in service after the war

After performing a range of aerobatic manoeuvres at around 5,000 feet, they were both alarmed to see the oil gauge needles hovering on the red.

At 2,000 feet and travelling at 160mph Eskil made a ‘Mayday’ call to Duxford, hoping they would be able to limp back to base. 

Although smoke was billowing out of the back of the plane and the engine had abruptly stopped, Eskil with “courage and nerve” brought the plane down to land before it crashed into a tree at 130mph. 

Covered in blood, the Norwegian pilot clambered out of the gaping hole in the side of the plane, checked Dave was alive and then collapsed about 15 metres away from the wreckage (below). 

A very rare vintage fighter plane crashed last night with two people on board. The Hawker Sea Fury in Royal Naval markings, crashed in a field near Harston Cambridge. Sea Fury's were developed late in WWll and went in service after the war. They saw action in the Korean War and one shot down a Mig-15 jet fighter. The Sea Fury was one of the fastest single piston engine planes made and carried four 20mm cannon. This was owned by the Norwegian Spitfire Fountation believed kept at IWM Duxford, which is close by. The pilot and passenger have received minor injuries but the aircraft is extensively damaged. 5.8.20 Pictures (c) copyright Stephen Huntley/HVC..07973 208461...16 CM3 4RP - Stephen Huntley/HVC
A very rare vintage fighter plane crashed last night with two people on board. The Hawker Sea Fury in Royal Naval markings, crashed in a field near Harston Cambridge. Sea Fury's were developed late in WWll and went in service after the war. They saw action in the Korean War and one shot down a Mig-15 jet fighter. The Sea Fury was one of the fastest single piston engine planes made and carried four 20mm cannon. This was owned by the Norwegian Spitfire Fountation believed kept at IWM Duxford, which is close by. The pilot and passenger have received minor injuries but the aircraft is extensively damaged. 5.8.20 Pictures (c) copyright Stephen Huntley/HVC..07973 208461...16 CM3 4RP - Stephen Huntley/HVC

Dave hauled himself from the cockpit just as he began to notice the smell of fuel. 

By this time,around 5.15pm, several onlookers had rushed to their aid shortly followed by the emergency services. 

Battered and bruised, Mr Unwin was then able to phone his wife Lizzie and tell her he was ok.