A pilot killed in a plane crash in Waterford was flying a type of homebuilt mini-jet immortalised by a James Bond film.
Howard Cox, 67, from Devon, was on his way to an air show in his unique single seat BD5 aircraft, when it came down yesterday evening in a field near Dungarvan, Co Waterford.
The father-of-one, an experienced aviator and talented engineer, spent 30 years working on the plane perfecting its performance and jet engine.
Mr Cox had been in Ireland for several days preparing for the Foynes Air Show at the Shannon Estuary, an event started last year to mark the 75th anniversary of the first transatlantic commercial passenger flights to the west of Ireland.
Air show director Gerry Humphreys paid a glowing tribute to his friend, who had been in remission for several months after suffering cancer.
“He was a good guy, very unassuming, an underestimated talent in aviation and engineering circles,” Mr Humphreys said.
A passionate engineer, Mr Cox began building his BD5 jet while he was in digs at university.
The plane was an international sensation in the early 1980s after being made famous when it featured in the opening sequence of the 007 hit Octopussy.
Several hours before yesterday’s crash Mr Cox had taken one of his friends John Drysdale and his two children for a flight in another vintage plane before making plans to travel to Shannon.
Mr Drysdale, who took the last photo of Mr Cox in the air, had been waiting to meet him for a drink when news filtered through of the plane crash as he flew from Waterford.
“He so enjoyed flying in Ireland. He loved it. Yesterday he was telling me the visibility and the scenery is so beautiful – that’s how I will remember him, as an enthusiastic, joyful person. It’s very, very sad,” Mr Humphreys said.
“He had recently beaten cancer and lived everyday as a bonus, sadly he did not know he had so few.”
Mr Cox’s wife Elizabeth is a nurse and her family are originally from the Waterford area. The couple had one son, Peter, aged in his 20s.
The BD5 James Bond style jet had been based in the south-east of Ireland for several years.
A minute’s silence was held at the Foynes Air Show with organisers dedicating the day’s events in memory of the popular pilot.
Ireland’s Air Accident Investigation Unit will be examining the cause of the crash.
Emergency services were called to the site, a field in an area of Clonea Upper, Co Waterford, at around 6.45pm yesterday evening.
Mr Cox is understood to have been in Ireland since last Wednesday making preparations for his appearance at the air show and inspecting other aircraft.
He was a world class precision flying expert and began doing air show displays about 10 years ago.
Mr Cox’ BD5 was a kit build jet designed by Jim Bede.
Several thousand were sold but few took to the skies as many engines were never completed as a factory supplying parts went bust.
The retired ship’s engineer worked on his plane for more than 30 years before making a handful of appearances in it at air shows to thrill spectators.
Its unique power and design was said to create a thrilling take-off sensation, like being in a go-kart close to the ground, before the jet behaved like a miniature fighter plane in the air with high speed, good manoeuvrability and a great view.