England

RAF pilot Andrew Townshend 'devastated' after nosedive

A Voyager aircraft (generic) Image copyright PA
Image caption The Voyager aircraft plummeted 4,400ft in a matter of seconds

An RAF pilot accused of causing his plane to nosedive while using a digital camera said he was "devastated" to be blamed for the incident.

Flight Lieutenant Andrew Townshend is charged with lying when he claimed the dive was caused by a technical fault.

A court martial at Bulford heard the Voyager aircraft plummeted 4,400ft over the Black Sea during a flight from RAF Brize Norton to Afghanistan.

The 49-year-old denies two counts of perjury and making a false record.

His trial heard crew and passengers thought they were going to die during the flight from the Oxfordshire base to Camp Bastion on 9 February 2014.

Flt Lt Townshend has admitted negligently performing a duty in relation to the Nikon camera colliding with the aircraft's control stick, but denies lying in a technical log and a service inquiry.

'Honest belief'

The experienced pilot - who has served with the RAF for 30 years and completed 5,500 flying hours - had been using his camera to photograph other aircraft from the cockpit and had taken 95 shots that day.

Flt Lt Townshend said that after the flight, he filled in his flight log stating that he believed at the time there had been an issue with the autopilot.

He said: "My honest belief was that it was some form of technical malfunction with the aircraft."

Flt Lt Townshend, from Ruislip, said he accepted the result of the investigation, which showed the aircraft had pitched down as a result of his camera becoming stuck next to the flight stick.

He said: "I was utterly devastated, it was quite possibly the worst day of my life as far as I was concerned, having considered myself a professional pilot for many years."

"I would absolutely want people to be aware there was a possibility of something like that happening again," he added.