The aircraft from a display team hit the water in front of thousands of people at the Herne Bay Airshow in Kent, England, at around 3.30pm on Sunday. The plane flipped and came to rest upside down around 20m from the shore, leaving the pilot struggling to get out of the partially submerged cockpit.
Spectators have rushed into the sea to help the pilot. Others made 999 calls to the UK Coastguard which immediately sent a search and rescue helicopter.
Photographer Nigel Hancock filmed the extreme scene. “The display team was coming towards the end of its routine, and I saw a plane coming down low and slowly, beyond the parameters of its normal flight routines. I thought he was in trouble, so I took a series of shots of what happened. It looked to be a textbook forced landing,” he told Kent Online.
The display team tweeted on Sunday: “We are pleased to confirm our pilot is safe and the aircraft intact after a decision to ditch in the sea @baypromoteam due to a problem.”