Pilot Survives After Losing Engine & Wing

  • Aug 20, 2015 6:09am GMT

The MX2 flown by South African pilot Nigel Hopkins crashed late Sunday afternoon while training for the 28th FAI World Aerobatic Championships at Serruelles Airfield (LFFU) in France. According to South African news outlet Netwerk 24, the engine and propeller departed the fuselage and hit the right wing of his MX2. The aircraft came to rest in a field near the airport after the pilot parachuted and was unharmed. The World Championships take place August 20 through 29 in Châteauroux, France.

(see photos of the bail out & wreckage below the video biography of Nigel).

Hopkins lives in Pretoria with his wife and three children and is a South African Airways flight captain. He posted a message via Facebook letting friends and followers know he was safe writing, “Thanks so much for all the support, it’s overwhelming. Mixed emotions right now. Many asking questions, until we have more info basically my aircraft broke in flight at the start of an aerobatic sequence and I managed to bail out and parachute safely.” It was the first time he had to bail out of an aircraft and has no second thoughts about flying again, "No problem. I am ready to fly again! What happened is an occupational hazard and flying is my job."

He told French New Republic reporter Guillaume Faucheron, "I was flying when I heard a loud noise. Bang! I realized that I had lost my wing. I was flying about 300 meters above the ground. I did not hesitate, I got out of the plane with my parachute. This happens in a very short time, five seconds. I didn't have time to be afraid." It seems the South African is out of the competition telling adding, "I am really disappointed. I trained for these World Championships and it's a shame not to go on but I'm glad to be alive."

Team USA member Rob Holland offered Nigel the use of his MX but the South African declined saying, "Despite the very generous offer from the great Champion that he is, Rob Holland for the loan of his plane, the straight answer is no. Despite the obvious relief and gratitude for the favourable outcome it's been a rather heartbreaking ordeal and I have to again thank every person that has made this massive journey to WAC 2015 possible but I'm looking forward to getting home!"

Hopkins arrived in France on Friday and had been training with the The British Aerobatic Association which also posted on Facebook, “Hopkins had an in-flight failure and managed to escape under parachute. I am pleased to report that Nigel is fine and having a well-earned beer.” He is a regular on the South African Air Show circuit flying the MX2. Last month he achieved National Unlimited Aerobatic Champion there.

The MX2 is a carbon fiber, two seat tandem sport aircraft that boasts, "greater performance and utility than any other aircraft in its class. In production since 2005 the MX2 has accumulated thousands of hours of rigorous flight time and has proven itself a rugged design both in aerobatic competitions and air shows worldwide."