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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 June, 2003, 12:08 GMT 13:08 UK
Flight recorder clue to crash
The pilot is in a stable condition
Investigations are continuing into why a Royal Navy Harrier jet crashed into the sea off the north Devon coast.

Military air accident investigators are hoping the flight recorder on board the plane will determine what went wrong.

The plane may also be salvaged to help the investigation.

The incident happened just before 1500 BST on Wednesday, with the plane coming down in the Bristol Channel, a mile from Lee Bay.

The Sea Harrier FA2, based at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset, had been on a test flight after undergoing work at a maintenance unit in St Athan, south Wales.

Plane "in a spin"

The pilot, a 45-year-old instructor, ejected from the aircraft and was picked up by a helicopter from the nearby RAF Chivenor air base.

He is in a stable condition at the medical centre at RNAS Yeovilton.

Some of the plane's wreckage was brought ashore by a lifeboat which went to the scene on Wednesday.

A spokesman said: "If we can recover all or most of the aircraft, the job of the investigation will be made much easier.

"It is important to determine what went wrong."

Flight Lieutenant Jon Evans, the 22 Squadron Sea King pilot who picked up the Harrier airman, said he had told his crew the jet was "in a spin" when he ejected.

He fired a flare to guide rescuers after he landed in the sea.

The Sea Harrier FA2 has a relatively good safety record, but in February last year the government announced it would be retired from service because it no longer suited the Royal Navy's needs.

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