As reported by The Guardian on May 30th, the Royal Air Force has grounded the aircraft of its Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) following the death of Squadron Leader Mark Long last weekend, casting doubt on the Flight’s participation in the upcoming 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings next month.

Squadron Leader Mark Long RAF. [Photo via Royal Air Force]

Squadron Leader Long, a Typhoon pilot stationed at RAF Coningsby, tragically lost his life in a crash while flying the BBMF’s Spitfire Mk.IX MK356 during a memorial event on May 25th, 2024. Long, who had served with the Flight for the past four years, was set to become its commanding officer in October. His was the first fatal accident in the 57-year history of the BBMF.

An RAF spokesperson stated, “Following the tragic accident at RAF Coningsby, and while the formal investigation is ongoing, the RAF has instigated a temporary pause in flying for the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. […] At this stage, the cause of the incident remains unknown and therefore, after extensive consultation between the Chief of the Air Staff and relevant senior RAF officers, it has been decided to continue the pause in flying for the BBMF.

“As always, flight safety remains the RAF’s primary concern, therefore BBMF flying will only resume when it is safe and appropriate to do so. As a result, regretfully, BBMF aircraft are not expected to be able to participate in the forthcoming D-Day 80 commemorations over June 5-6 2024.”

The Flight’s aircraft were scheduled to participate in a national commemorative event in Portsmouth on June 5th marking 80 years since Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy, a pivotal moment in turning the tide of World War II against Nazi Germany. The timeline for the RAF’s investigation and the subsequent decision on whether the aircraft will fly again remains uncertain.