Tributes paid to fliers

Roger Cruickshank, who paid tribute to his friends killed in the recent Tornado crash over the North Sea.
Roger Cruickshank, who paid tribute to his friends killed in the recent Tornado crash over the North Sea.

A former Olympic skier from Deeside, now an RAF pilot, has paid tribute to his colleagues who were killed in the Tornado crash over the North Sea.

Roger Cruickshank, 29, originally from Torphins, worked alongside Flt Lt Adam Sanders and Flt Lt Hywel Poole, who died after the pair of Tornado fast jets collided during a training mission on July 3, 25 miles south of Wick, near the Beatrice Oilfield.

Following the tragedy, two men were plucked from the water by Sea King helicopter and flown to hospital – Flt Lt Poole later died from his injuries and a fourth crew member remains seriously injured in hospital. Sqn Ldr Samuel Bailey and Flt Lt Sanders are both missing, presumed dead.

Roger, who is based at RAF Valley in Anglesey, said: “The last few days have been hard with the loss of two good friends in the Tornado GR4 crash.

“I’ve known Adam since about 2008 and we always got on well. He was a ‘creamie’ instructor as well because he finished at the top of his course on the Hawk T1 so they kept him back to become an instructor.

“A great memory of Adam is when I took him round a charity track day held at RAF Valley in my Porsche Carrera 4S, which he absolutely loved!

“We were ripping round the runways and taxiways at up to 130mph and he was whooping and cheering!

“Hywel Poole I’ve known for the last three years and I actually instructed him on the Hawk when he was based at RAF Valley.

“He was very well liked by everyone, bar none, in the air force and always very keen to help.

“We did a lot of wakeboarding together and had planned to meet up this summer when he came home to North Wales, as he was now based up at Lossiemouth on the Tornado.

“I did see him up at friend’s wedding just a month ago and it was great to catch up, so a nice memory to remember having a beer with him last I saw him.”

At the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at RAF Fairford on Sunday, Roger and his colleagues flew the ER2 formation - a display performed for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and reported by the Piper at the time.

“Supposedly it was very well received from those watching on the ground,” said Roger, who represented GB in the downhill and Super G at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin. “We were supposed to also do the flypast on Saturday but it was cancelled due to weather, so I was very happy that we managed to get it in on Sunday.

“The weather was again not very good and made our arrival at the airshow, from RAF Valley, very hard work. Also, there was a lot of turbulence as we were flying in, which made it very hard to stay in formation, but everyone did a fantastic job and produced a fine performance.

“Wg Cdr Gleave, who is the officer commanding 100 Sqn at RAF Leeming and who also led the E2R formation flypast over Windsor for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee on May 19, as well as today, did a fine job of leading us, when he knew that we had lost our friends.

“We didn’t fly over RIAT just to demonstrate the flying skills of the Royal Air Force, but to prove that we will rise above it through times of adversity, and as a tribute to two very fine gentlemen that I am proud to have had as my friends.

“This last week has been quite an emotional one and something that I feel as one of the best achievements of my career, due to the gravity of the situation after the devastating news of the Tornado crash.”

The operation to locate the bodies of Sqn Ldr Bailey and Flt Lt Sanders has been ongoing since the mid-air collision and will continue this week - weather permitting. The recovery operation was hampered by bad weather at the weekend.