‘Pilot error’ behind Shoreham airshow crash that killed 11 people

'Pilot error' behind Shoreham airshow crash that killed 11 people

A “devastating” plane crash at the Shoreham Airshow which killed 11 men was caused by the pilot’s “serious negligence”, a court has heard.

The pilot, Andrew Hill, was flying the Hawker Hunter too low when he lost control flying over the A27 during the Shoreham airshow in 2015

The fighter jet, dating from the 1950s, plummeted on to the West Sussex dual carriageway while it was performing a loop stunt at 1.22pm on 22 August.

Jurors were told Andy Hill’s Hawker Hunter jet “disintegrated” upon impact, creating a “massive fireball” when it hit the ground in August 2015.

The vintage aircraft was in “excellent working order”, the Old Bailey heard, and “pilot error” was purely to blame.

“Until the moment that it crashed, there was nothing wrong with the flying capabilities of that aircraft. The crash happened purely because of pilot error. The pilot was attempting a manoeuvre called a bent loop which requires the aircraft to reach a specific height before it begins its downward trajectory. Mr Hill did not reach the height required, but nevertheless continued the manoeuvre.


“In short, he did not have the height to pull the aircraft out of its dive, back to the level flight at a safe height and, as a result, he crashed into the ground. The prosecution case is that it was Mr Hill’s serious negligence that led directly to the loss of those 11 lives.”

Holding up a scale model of the Hawker Hunter, Mr Kark told jurors it had ascended to about 2,800ft (850m) when Mr Hill attempted the stunt.

The jet was “too low, probably by as much as a 1,000ft below the height required” at the top of the loop, the court heard.

“Mr Hill should not have started his descent”, Mr Kark said, but “nevertheless continued the manoeuvre”.

Mr Hill, 54, denies 11 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.

In opening remarks from the prosecution, a jury was told that Andrew Hill made no comment during police interviews but provided three prepared statements to them on separate occasions. On 1 June 2017, he provided officers with a 10-page statement which said he had no recollection of the crash and believed G-Force pressures may have contributed, Mr Kark said.

He told police “he had no memory of the incident”, the court heard, but said G-force “may have been a factor”.

The court was told, that Hill, although an experienced pilot, had been known to “take risks”; one of his airshow displays the year before the accident had been brought to a halt because of his “dangerous” flying.

Hill, a trained Royal Air Force instructor, who was a British Airways captain at the time, was thrown clear of the aircraft but taken to hospital with serious injuries and placed into an induced coma. He was later discharged from hospital. Mr Hill, from Sandon, Hertfordshire, had served in the RAF between 1985 and 1994 before becoming a commercial pilot, the court heard.

The jury was told Mr Hill “miraculously escaped” when the aircraft broke up and he was thrown into a ditch. He suffered head injuries and rib fractures and has made a full recovery, the court heard.

Here is a list of men who died in crash

  • Matt Jones, a 24-year-old personal trainer
  • Matthew Grimstone, 23, a Worthing United footballer who worked as a groundsman at Brighton & Hove Albion
  • Jacob Schilt, also 23 and also a Worthing United player, was travelling to a match with Mr Grimstone
  • Maurice Abrahams, 76, from Brighton, was a chauffeur on his way to pick up a bride on her wedding day
  • Friends Richard Smith, 26, and Dylan Archer, 42, who were going for a bike ride on the South Downs
  • Mark Reeves, 53, had ridden his motorcycle to the perimeter of Shoreham Airport to take photos of the planes
  • Tony Brightwell, 53, from Hove was an aircraft enthusiast and had learnt to fly at Shoreham airfield
  • Mark Trussler, 54, had gone to watch the display on his Suzuki motorbike and was standing next to the road
  • Daniele Polito, 23 was travelling in the same car as Mr Jones
  • James “Graham” Mallinson, 72, from Newick, was a photographer and retired engineer


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