Friends celebrate life of stunt pilot Alex “Jimmy” Rae

Gazette & Herald: Tiger moth pilot Alex “Jim” Rae, from Easingwold, pictured with wife Alice on a previous trip Tiger moth pilot Alex “Jim” Rae, from Easingwold, pictured with wife Alice on a previous trip

THE widow of a North Yorkshire pilot who died in a biplane crash in Australia has spoken for the first time following a celebration of his life.

Alex “Jimmy” Rae, 26, from Easingwold was piloting the vintage Tiger Moth biplane in an aerobatic flight at about 3,000 feet over the coast of Brisbane, when it crashed into the sea.

Mr Rae and his passenger, 21-year-old Taissia Umenc, were both killed.

Mr Rae’s widow Alice Walker Rae, pictured above, said the couple were recently married and had been living and working in Australia for some time. They first met at Easingwold School, and Mrs Walker Rae thanked friends and family from North Yorkshire for their support following her husband’s death.

She spoke as it emerged the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) – investigating the crash – said the final minutes of the flight were captured on a digital video camera which had been recovered from the wreckage and showed the left wings of the plane had failed mid-air.

Speaking to The Press yesterday, Mrs Walker Rae, said: “We were both from York so it’s nice that everyone back home has been so supportive.

“We held his funeral on Christmas Eve and send-off with everyone today, on the beach with over a hundred people and a fly-by with two Tiger Moths.

“It was the best send-off anyone could have, it’s been brilliant. The funeral was just a family affair on Christmas Eve, but today was everyone who knew Jimmy in Australia coming together. It was fantastic.”

Following the crash, on December 16, part of the plane’s propeller and its ID badge washed up on a beach, but divers have also recovered more of the aircraft from the sea bed, where the cockpit of the Tiger Moth was found about 40 metres away from the engine.

Two GoPro digital cameras were attached to the plane, and the ATSB said it had already recovered footage of the final flight for an initial report into the crash.

The report said: “Witnesses observed the aircraft impact the water about 300 metres to the east of South Stradbroke Island at about 12.24pm Eastern Standard Time.

“The aircraft was fitted with two cameras associated with the conduct of joy flight activities. One of the cameras, a digital video camera, was recovered from the accident site, and the stored data was successfully downloaded. The video footage shows that, about eight minutes after take-off, the aircraft commenced aerobatic manoeuvres. About one minute later during an aerobatic manoeuvre, the left wings failed.”

The report said most of the wreckage had been recovered and a “detailed examination” would take place to determine the nature of the failure, but weather conditions were not considered to be a significant factor.

The ATSB said there has only been one previous case of “an in-flight breakup” involving similar planes between 1969 and 2013 - a crash in February 1998 which also involved a Tiger Moth performing aerobatics. The full findings of the investigation will not be made public for a year, and the footage from the onboard cameras would not be released.

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