I'm in the wrong job, shouted Army captain on RAF crash helicopter

A FORMER Army captain on board a helicopter shouted out a famous phrase from the film Top Gun just moments before it crashed in North Yorkshire, an inquest heard today.

Captain Robert Earle was on board an RAF Puma with a group of young soldiers as it took part in a training exercise near Catterick Garrison on August 8 2007.

The inquest at Harrogate Magistrates' Court heard Mr Earle use the phrase "yeeha Jester's dead" as the aircraft flew low and fast over the countryside.

Moments later the 20 million aircraft crashed.

The phrase is used in the Hollywood blockbuster Top Gun starring Tom Cruise.

Mr Earle, a former captain in the Black Watch, said he did not remember making the comment but was asked by the coroner to explain what he meant.

He said: "I believe I made that comment because there was a situation with young men doing something exciting.

"I didn't feel out of my comfort zone, but a manoeuvre had just been executed.

Mr Earle said he looked back at the soldiers to see if they were happy.

The court was told the flight included soldiers who had missed out on earlier exercises due to illness and it was considered a boost to their morale as well as a good opportunity to improve their skills.

Mr Earle was also heard to use the phrase "I'm in the wrong job" as the aircraft passed low over trees.

He said: "I was enjoying myself at the point the manoeuvre was being executed."

He said he did not believe the crew were flying dangerously but said he had little recollection of the accident.

Flight Lieutenant David Sale, 28, Sergeant Phillip Burfoot, 27, and 17-year-old Army recruit Private Sean Tait were killed in the accident.

A total of 12 military personnel were on board the helicopter, which also left Flight Lieutenant Robert Hamilton paraplegic as a result of the injuries he suffered.

The inquest was told that earlier in the day the Puma was taken on a flight over a farm belonging to a friend of a captain on board the aircraft.

The helicopter flew low over the farm owned by the family of Mark Temple.

His friend Captain Rupert Smedley was on board the aircraft and was taking part in the training exercise with men from the Parachute Regiment.

The inquest saw footage of the Puma circling the house as family members came out and took pictures.

On the opening day of the inquest an audio clip was played to Harrogate Magistrates' Court in which the crew were heard laughing and joking just moments before the crash.

During the recording, one voice could be heard saying "s***, s***, s***" and an on-board computer was heard to say "low height" on a number of occasions.

Sgt Burfoot, from Cardiff, and Flt Lt Sale, from Norton on Teesside, died in the crash. They both served with 33 Squadron.

Pte Tait died two days later in hospital from his injuries.

He was from Castlemilk in Glasgow and had been undergoing training in the Royal Regiment of Scotland Company of the 1st Infantry Training Battalion at the Infantry Training Centre, Catterick.