An experienced pilot of vintage aircraft died after losing control of a German first world war replica plane he had built himself as he rehearsed for a show, an inquest has heard.
John Day, 68, died when his Fokker Eindecker III, a notoriously tricky plane to fly, crashed as he practised with the Great War Display Team at the army aviation centre in Hampshire.
David Linney, a retired RAF and civilian pilot, told the inquest in Winchester that Day was carrying out a 180-degree turn but the aircraft continued to turn before nosediving to the ground.
He said: "This turn steepened, nose low, until the aircraft struck the ground. Shortly after it hadn't rolled out I realised something was wrong, I could do nothing but watch. On impact it almost immediately caught on fire. The fire was very rapid, it almost obliterated the aircraft."
John Hoblyn, a friend and pilot who was watching, said Day had been happy with his aircraft and felt he was learning how to handle it having completed about 10 hours of flight time.
He said: "He talked about it, he said it was very difficult but he was quite happy with it, he was getting used to it."
Hoblyn said Day was possibly one of only two people who had flown that type of aircraft in the UK. He added: "John's building was first class, the aircraft was superbly built. He was very meticulous in both his building and his flying and over the years he had built up as many hours of anyone in the team, he was one of the most experienced fliers of first world war aircraft in the country."
Nicholas Dan, of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, said no cause for the accident had been found but added that the difficulty of flying the aircraft combined with Day's relative inexperience of this particular plane might have been contributory factors.
He added that a distraction such as a slipped pair of goggles or a bee flying into a pilot's mouth could cause problems in such circumstances.
The coroner Graham Short recorded a verdict of accidental death and said: "This was a very unusual aircraft; there may only be one or two others in the world, one in the Science Museum in London.
"Although John was an experienced pilot he had only flown this particular aircraft for about 10 hours. It would be fair to say he was less familiar with the handling of the EIII as he was with other planes.
"I think it is significant that John did not use his radio to tell other members of the team of the problems, which reinforces my view he suddenly found he couldn't control the plane and was desperately trying to do that rather than call others."
Short said Day, of Horsham, West Sussex, died instantaneously of multiple injuries in the accident in April last year.
He said there had been criticism of the fire service's slow response to the incident but added this would not have affected the outcome.