Shoreham Airshow crash pilot ‘overflew’ Lancing College at 2014’s event

The pilot involved in the Shoreham Airshow crash ‘overflew’ Lancing College at the 2014 event, a court heard.

Pilot Andrew Hill, 54, faces 11 charges of manslaughter by gross negligence and one of endangering an aircraft under air navigation laws following the crash on August 22, 2015.

An aerial shot of Lancing College

An aerial shot of Lancing College

He is currently on trial at the Old Bailey, with prosecutors arguing his negligence caused the A27 crash while the defence claim he partially lost consciousness during his final manoeuvre.

This afternoon, the jury heard evidence from test pilot David Southwood that Mr Hill had broken the rules on several occasions while operating his Hawker Hunter jet.

One such error was flying over the boundaries of Lancing College during the Shoreham Airshow in 2014, he said.

Jurors had previously heard similar testimony from a pilot who actually flew in the cockpit with him.
As part of the permit to fly a Hawker Hunter, the pilot is not allowed to take off if the jet pipe temperature is lower than 580℃, Mr Southwood said.

He claimed that in a practice flight for the 2014 Shoreham Airshow in Duxford air field, near the Imperial War Museum, Mr Hill took off at 520℃. He was still only at 550℃ when airborne.

Days later at the airshow, he took off at 540℃.

When asked what he would do in a similar position by prosecutor Thomas Kark QC, Mr Southwood said: “If it was less than 580 degrees I wouldn’t take off.

“You haven’t got sufficient thrust, so you may not be able to get airborne with the runway length available.”

Mr Southwood first started training in 1972, and had flown Hawker Hunter jets - the same make as the aircraft that crashed - since 1978.

He had also flown the Cold War-era jet in displays like the Shoreham Air Show, clocking more than 1,000 hours of flights in them.

Using a similar model, Mr Southwood recreated the flight of Mr Hill to see what factors led to the crash - and whether he could have pulled off an escape manoeuvre to prevent the tragedy.

He said Mr Hill only reached a peak height of around 2,700ft during the ‘bent loop’ manoeuvre which ended in the crash; but Mr Southwood said he would not have finished it unless he reached a height of at least 4,500ft at the loop's peak.

The defence had claimed that Mr Hill had a medical incident after being subjected to G-force.

In his test flights, Mr Southwood said it took him 1.5 seconds to reach 4.9G, which lasted for one second, and then reduced to 2.7G a few seconds later.

Mr Southwood said he had only experienced ‘greyout’ - vision impairment from G-force pressure - after being exposed to 6 to 7Gs for four seconds, but was trained to fly under 9Gs of force.

The jury was also shown split-screen footage of Mr Hill performing the same bent loop manoeuvre at the airshow in 2014 and 2015 to see whether he may have used flaps on the wings to give the jet more lift moments before the crash.

Mr Southwood said from the footage shown, he believed one of Mr Hill’s head movements indicated he was deploying them.

Mr Hill denies all charges.

The trial continues.