MiGMan's Flight Sim Museum < www.migman.com >

Fairford, 1993

In 1993 a famous air to air collision occured between two MiG-29s...famous because it took place in front of the world press!

Rob "Bomber" Hendersonremembers :

" As it happens, I was there and saw most of the event happen!

The MiGs were from the Gromov Flight Research Centre at Zhukhovskii. The accident happened at the Royal International Air Tatoo at RAF Fairford UK on the 24th July 1993.

The aircraft were about half way through their display when they collided. They had performed a series of formation loops in trail, with what I remember as the lead aircraft being overtaken by the other at the start of the next loop in sequence ( No 1 would lead, then No 2 would lead and so on ).

On the last loop, the trailing MiG went to overtake the lead but misjudged his separation on the climbing pass and his port wing almost completely severed the nose off of the lead MiG - the aircraft "folded" at almost a 90 degree angle at this point just behind the rear cockpit bulkhead and exploded.

The No 2 MiG lost it's port wing but continued to climb almost vertically with fuel pouring out of the severed wing tank.

The MiG disappeared into cloud with a huge fireball chasing it as the fuel ignited - the last I saw of that MiG.

The lead MiG with the severed nose, erupted in a ball of flame and entered a flat spin, which was inverted at first - and the pilot actually stayed with the aircraft fighting with the controls in the hope that the plane wouldn't hit the crowd line. As it happens, the control lines were completely cut and he eventually ejected after waiting for the aircraft to ( almost ) right itself.

I didn't see the ejection sequence for either pilot, and the general opinion at the time was that both must have perished.

Fairford is a huge airbase, and I can't describe how quiet that place went within seconds of those MiGs hitting.

The severed nose MiG crashed near to some parked aircraft - a Belgian C-130 lost it's starboard tailplane after being hit by wreckage, and rumour has it that the crew of the Herc were sitting on top of the it watching the display when the accident happened. The other MiG landed in a field outside the airbase just missing a huge stack of hay bales that several spectators were standing on.

To the credit of the performing aircrews, the show carried on, and within minutes of the emergency services leaping into action, the Swiss display team in their Hunters took off and continued the show.

I had a meeting pre-planned with the boss of the British Army Air Corps helicopter display team ( Silver Eagles - usually Blue Eagles, but the team were celebrating an anniversary ) regarding an artwork project with my caricatures that I was doing for the team, at a time soon after the accident.

The meeting still went ahead and I found out then that both pilots had ejected safely. Stories were already going around about what had happened, and it is said that the pilots landed within walking distance from each other.

The broken wing MiG pilot sat down in the field and lit a cigarette. The broken nose MiG pilot landed, and with a ( dislocated or broken shoulder? ) went over to the other pilot and promptly rammed his good fist into the other guys nose as hard as he could. He then sat down next to the him and also lit a cigarette, and there they stayed, smoking and chatting until an ambulance arrived!