Tributes paid to Thunder City pilot killed in Lightning crash

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Tributes have been paid to the pilot of a privately owned English Electric Lightning who was killed when his aircraft crashed during an air show display in South Africa on 14 November.

A pilot for Cape Town airport-based company Thunder City, 46-year-old Dave Stock was killed after he was unable to eject from the Lightning T5, registered ZA-BEX, reportedly after it suffered a hydraulics failure. The accident happened while the aircraft was taking part in a display at the South African Air Force's Bredasdorp air base.

 
© Thunder City
ZA-BEX was one of four Lightnings owned by Cape Town-based Thunder City

"The full circumstances surrounding the cause of the accident are being investigated by the [South African] Civil Aviation Authority, with our full co-operation and assistance," says Thunder City chief executive Mike Beachy Head. His company adds: "We are unable to make any statements on the cause of the tragic accident."

A "confident and highly skilled pilot", Stock had first flown one of Thunder City's four Lightnings in 1999, says Head. He had also previously flown Denel Cheetah fighters for the SAAF, Boeing 737 and 747 airliners for South African Airlines and, most recently, been chief test pilot on the nation's new BAE Systems Hawk 120 advanced jet trainers.

Also equipped with several Blackburn Buccaneers and Hawker Hunters, Thunder City has flown hundreds of fee-paying civilian passengers since it was created in 1999, and had "an impeccable safety record" before the Lightning crash, says Head.

Thunder City has voluntarily grounded its remaining three Lightnings - one two-seat T5 and two single-seat T6s - pending the results of the CAA investigation, which is expected to last for several weeks. The company will continue operations with its Buccaneer and Hunter fleets, however.