RAF pilot Nathan Jones saved the lives of passengers as military plane took 4,400ft nosedive
Flight Lieutenant Nathan Jones told a court martial he crawled along the A330 Voyager’s ceiling to seize the controls after an alleged blunder by pilot Andrew Townshend.
The 34-year-old suffered a broken back during his heroics and is now Great Britain’s team captain for Prince Harry’s Invictus Games.
He said the 187 passengers heading to Afghanistan feared they would die as the plane plunged towards the Black Sea.
Flight Lieutenant Nathan Jones with Prince Harry at the Invictus Games
He added: “It was the most traumatic experience of my life. I thought it was curtains.
It was the most traumatic experience of my life. I thought it was curtains
Flight Lieutenant Nathan Jones
“It was like a rubbish rollercoaster. You wouldn’t go back on the ride. It was very unpleasant.”
Townshend is accused of sending the plane into a 30-second plunge by letting his camera slip and jam the controls at 33,000ft.
The 49-year-old is said to have been so “bored” that he began taking photographs from the plane.
Townshend is accused of sending the plane into a dive as his camera slipped and jammed the controls
His co-pilot Flt Lt Jones told Bulford Military Court in Wiltshire the drama unfolded as he returned to his seat during a flight to Camp Bastion, in Helmand province.
He said: “It felt like a rumble, a bit of turbulence, and then suddenly I hit the roof.
“When you’re pinned to the roof, you know it’s not turbulence. You know it’s going to be nose down.
“I crawled along the ceiling. As you have seen the doorway into the cockpit is lower than the ceiling.
“I had to climb through the opening. Then when I got into the cockpit, that was when I saw everything was pitch black. I could see we were going into the sea.”
He recovered the aircraft from the nosedive by pulling on the joystick.
The jet was diverted to the nearest airfield, Incirlik air base in Turkey, where casualties were treated.
The plane in question was an A330 Voyager
Flt Lt Jones’ injuries included the back fracture, a prolapsed disc and nerve damage. His head and fingers were also badly damaged.
He is expected to captain the British team in Canada this summer for the games set up by Prince Harry for injured servicemen and women.
The tribunal heard Townshend had been practising photography when he shifted his seat, wedging the camera against the joystick and jamming the plane’s controls.
Nigel Lickley, prosecuting, told the hearing: “Passengers experienced weightlessness. They thought they were going to die.”
Townshend is alleged to have deleted photos, lied when filing a log, blamed the incident on a mechanical fault and lied under oath in a service inquiry.
He denies two counts of perjury and making a false record in relation to lying, but admits negligently performing a duty in relation to causing the camera to collide with the joystick.
The hearing continues.