Nigel Farage always hated flying
[Note the Telegraph Columnist writing of Farage on the day of the crash almost as though he were already dead..]
He especially loathed having to take the tiny propellor-powered plane that was the only direct route to Strasbourg before the fast train link. [Well, that's got nothig to do with the plane he was in on Election Day - FOR NO REASON - which crashed, has it?] But he bore those journeys with good-humoured stoicism, as he did most of the disagreeable aspects of our job.
Nigel is, I suppose, my chief rival in the South East. But he has always acted as a gentleman towards political opponents, and I like to think we have become friends. Nigel is in politics for the best possible reason: patriotism. He gave up a lucrative career to stand for the European Parliament, and there are plenty of other, more rewarding, things he could be doing.
It is typical of the man that, as he came round, his first words were to ask after the pilot. I hope all of us, whatever our parties, will join in wishing him a speedy and complete recovery.
[Where IS the pilot in any of the crash photos...? He doesn't seem to be visible in the wreckage]
Mr Farage, was pulled semi-conscious from the wreckage with blood running down his swollen face after the light aircraft crashed upside down at Hinton-in-the-Hedges airfield, near Brackley, Northants.
Amazingly the politician, who is contesting Speaker John Bercow’s seat in Buckingham, walked away from the crash with only minor head injuries. The pilot, Justin Adams, was more seriously hurt but his condition is not said to be life-threatening.
In a statement, Mr Farage, who is recovering in hospital, said: "We've both had a miraculous escape. We are both very lucky to be alive."
The aircraft was pulling a purple and yellow Ukip banner which allegedly got caught up in the tail fin of the aircraft when it took off just after 8am. The banner carried the slogan "Vote for your country - Vote Ukip".
Mr Farage, 46, was found still strapped into his cockpit seat, bent double and face down under the plane. He was pulled from the tangled wreckage still dressed in a pin-stripe suit, blue shirt and tie, with a Ukip rosette attached.
Mr Farage, a Ukip MEP and the party’s chief spokesman, was first taken to Horton General Hospital in Banbury, suffering from minor head injuries.
Later he was transferred to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where he is expected to remain “for a few days”, a hospital spokeswoman said.
It means that Mr Farage will be unable to attend the count in the constituency he is contesting, which is due to take place on Friday morning.
Duncan Barkes, Mr Farage’s spokesman, said: “He is not going anywhere. There is no way he will be at the count.
"He's got two broken ribs, a small chip to his spine and damage to his sternum."
Mr Farage's wife Kirsten was at his bedside after the crash but later returned to their home in Westerham, Kent, to care for the couple's two children.
Mr Adams lost his shoes in the impact of the crash and was airlifted from the scene to Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry, where his condition is described as “stable”.
Eyewitnesses told how the pilot and Mr Farage were in the front seats of the plane when it banked and suddenly plummeted. A worker at nearby Hinton Airfield said the crash happened seconds after take-off.
He said: “It actually came down on the airfield, I was working in the hanger when I saw everyone running down towards it.
“It is unusual for us to have a take off that early in the morning but the conditions were good and fine for flying.
“The plane itself was not broken up that much by the crash because it hadn't gone that far and luckily hadn't got too high.
“Everyone was on the scene very quickly and it's good the pilot and the passenger both seem to have escaped relatively unscathed.”
Moments before take-off, Mr Farage had joked: “I just hope the plane doesn’t blow up and crash.”
Mr Barkes added: "Of course he's shaken up, but he is mostly feeling incredibly lucky to get out of the plane.
"As soon as he came out he wanted a cigarette. You wouldn't expect anything else really.
"He's just been worried about the pilot. Yes it's May 6, but today is about people, not politics."
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has launched an inquiry into the crash, which happened just after 8am.
The crash is also being investigated by Northamptonshire Police.
Speaking from the scene, Detective Chief Inspector Martin Kinchin said: "Looking at the wreckage behind me, I think you can make your own judgment as to how lucky they were.
"The people inside the plane were lucky to come out with not very serious injuries."
Mr Bercow, who was out campaigning on Thursday afternoon, said: “I was concerned to learn of this morning's crash. I wish Nigel Farage and his pilot a full and speedy recovery."
Prior to the crash, the single-engine Polish plane - a PZL-104 Wilga (Golden Oriole) - had circled the airfield six times as it tried unsuccessfully to hook up a 15ft UKIP banner, which was tethered to the ground.
When it engaged it at the seventh attempt, the plane circled for another five minutes before the incident unfolded.
Simon Moores, a pilot and operations director of Airads, an aerial advertising company, said he believed turbulence could have caused the accident.
He said the banner should have been attached to the plane by swooping in and picking up a towing line with a hook connected to the rear of the aircraft.
Mr Moores, who has more than 1,000 hours' experience flying with aerial banners, said: "Coming in that low to the ground, you can sometimes suffer a bit of unexpected turbulence.
"In those circumstances, it is possible to get the line snared on either the tail fin or the elevators, which is what appears to have happened in this case.
"If that happens, the weight of the banner can pull either the rudder or the elevator and pull the aircraft out of control."