Horrifying crash as wingwalker plane ditches in sea by Sandbanks Ferry

No stranger to unusual incidents, the Sandbanks Ferry service was suspended after a plane, along with a wingwalker and its pilot, who were part of the Bournemouth Air Festival display, crashed into the sea.

Miraculously, the pilot and wingwalker were quickly rescued and despite a horrifying experience, suffered only minor physical injuries.


The team are from the aerobatic formation wingwalking company, AeroSuperBatics, that performed at the Swanage Carnival in 2019.

Dorset Police said they received a report at 3.50 pm on Saturday 4th September 2021 that a small aircraft had crashed into the water in the Sandbanks area of Poole Harbour.

wingwalker plane half submerged in the sea
Alex Cason

The half submerged plane at the entrance to Poole Harbour, with the Sandbanks Ferry in the background

“The plane’s nose hit the water, it flipped over

Eyewitness Alex Cason from Surrey, who took a photo of the half submerged plane, was fishing near to the Haven Hotel, when he saw the plane come down in front of him. Speaking to the BBC he said:

“Just above the rocks, I saw this plane very low and I just sort of stood there in shock really – it was descending.

“I couldn’t stop looking at the pilot’s face – he looked in real shock… a few seconds later, 10 metres in front of me the plane crashes.

“The plane’s nose hit the water, it flipped over, and then the pilot and passenger were under water for 10 seconds and luckily there was a rib nearby and they came over.

“It was very terrifying to watch, the lady was screaming… I didn’t know what to do, I just stood there in shock… Terrifying situation to witness”

Poole RNLI go to the aid of wingwalker and pilot
RNLI/Poole Lifeboat

Poole RNLI arrive to help, along with Dorset Marine Police

A small inflatable dinghy was first on the scene

A small inflatable dinghy was able to get close to the half submerged plane and was the first to go to the aid of the pilot and the wingwalker. Footage filmed at the scene records a woman screaming as both the man and woman swim to the dinghy before being hauled into it.

The marine breakdown service, Sea Start crew were also quickly on the scene and transferred the pair to the safety of their larger boat. Close behind was both Poole RNLI lifeboats who were able to check the man and woman for injuries, which were fortunately, minor.

Poole Lifeboat check over the casualties
RNLI/ Poole Lifeboat

Poole Lifeboat crew check over the casualties, being kept warm in the Sea Start boat

Reported engine problems

It’s understood that the Boeing A75N1 Stearman plane had reported engine problems and was returning to land at Bournemouth Airport when it ditched in Poole Harbour.

As the news broke, the Bournemouth Air Festival organisers suspended the rest of the air display for the day.

With the ditched plane close to the Sandbanks Ferry chains, the ferry suspended its service while the emergency services attended to the incident.

The scene where the plane crashed near Sandbanks Ferry
Swanage Coastguard

The RNLI and Dorset Marine Police cordon off the site of the submerged biplane

Swanage Coastguard took witness statements

Swanage Coastguard team were also called to the scene and reported:

“The patrol and team were tasked to the plane crash during the Bournemouth Air Show. The plane came down on the north side of the harbour entrance near to the chain ferry.

“On route it was confirmed the two occupants were safe. The team later returned to Shell Bay to take witness statements and check for pollution.”

With everyone safe, the Sandbanks Ferry was able to resume service although Dorset Police reported:

“The Sandbanks Ferry is running, but there are very long queues causing congestion on both the Sandbanks and Swanage sides. Motorists are reminded that they can take the road route to avoid the long delays.”

Sandbanks Ferry
Library image

The plane crashed in the sea near to the Haven Hotel and the path of the Sandbanks Ferry

“Huge relief ” that the display crew are safe and well

The Bournemouth Air Festival is expected to resume the air display on Sunday 5th September 2021 with the RAF Red Arrows scheduled for 3 pm. The organisers said:

“Following the incident earlier today, the site of the crash has been secured and will remain so overnight. Members of the public are requested to avoid the area. The aircraft will be recovered in due course, subject to tides and harbour traffic.

“We would like to thank the RNLI, Coastguard, South West Ambulance, Dorset Police, Poole Harbour Commissioners and all those who took part in the rescue of the two people aboard the aircraft.

“It is a huge relief for all those involved in the Air Festival that the incident has resulted in the display crew being removed from the water, safe and well.

“We would also like to thank members of the public for bearing with us all and continuing to make the most of the fabulous ground programme that continued at the Air Festival this afternoon and into the evening.

“We expect a good programme of flying to take place tomorrow on Sunday 5th September.”

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