RAF pilot who died in Spitfire crash ‘cherished and deeply missed’ – family

A Royal Air Force pilot who died in a Spitfire crash “lived his life with an unwavering passion” and “will be cherished and deeply missed”, his family said.

Squadron Leader Mark Long, 43, died in a Spitfire of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) in a crash near RAF Coningsby on Saturday.

According to the Ministry of Defence (MoD), he lived in Lincolnshire with his wife, two daughters and a dog.

Mr Long’s family said in a statement issued by the MoD: “Mark lived his life with an unwavering passion with laughter, love, and dedication to his family.

“His talent for flying was there for all to see, and his ability to connect to everyone he met was infectious. Mark will be cherished and deeply missed by us all.”

Mr Long was born in Bury St Edmunds and graduated Initial Officer Training in 2003, the MoD said.

He was then sent to RAF Linton-on-Ouse to fly the Tucano before gaining his “wings” in 2003.

His Advanced Flying Training was on the Hawk and he was selected to take on the role of an instructor.

Mr Long later converted to the Harrier GR7/9 and was posted to RAF Cottesmore.

He was the last RAF Harrier pilot qualified to conduct operations off an aircraft carrier.

In 2012, Mr Long joined the Typhoon Force and was assigned to RAF Coningsby.

In 2016, he was the Typhoon Display Pilot and his primary role was to teach student pilots how to operate the jet.

The MoD said that alongside his instructional duties, Mr Long also helped defend UK sovereign airspace by undertaking Quick Reaction Alert duties in the UK, Falkland Islands and while on Baltic Air Policing Operations in Lithuania.

At the time of his death, Mr Long was in his fourth season with the BBMF.

Officer Commanding Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, Squadron Leader Mark Sugden, said: “In life, we are occasionally privileged to meet incredible people like Mark.

“Mark touched the hearts of everyone that he met, always prioritising the needs of others before himself.

“The epitome of a military fighter pilot, he personified the very best of the Royal Air Force and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

“We were lucky to have him as part of the team and part of our BBMF family.

“Always a vision of calm, Mark faced life’s obstacles with a wry smile, a knowing nod and a pint of tea.

“Above all, he was a devoted husband and a proud father.

“Whilst words alone cannot adequately convey our loss, he will remain forever ‘the best boss that BBMF never had’.”