Shoreham Airshow crash trial: ‘pilot error’ led to tragedy which claimed 11 lives

The Bridge of Light in memory of the Shoreham Airshow crash victims. An RIP candle is left. SUS-181224-111720001
The Bridge of Light in memory of the Shoreham Airshow crash victims. An RIP candle is left. SUS-181224-111720001

The Shoreham Airshow crash which claimed the lives of 11 people and injured 16 was caused by ‘pilot error’, a court has heard.

Pilot Andrew Hill, 54, who faces 11 charges of manslaughter by gross negligence, was performing a stunt at the air show in the summer of 2015 and despite not reaching the required height, continued with it anyway, it was said.

The Old Bailey heard that to perform the stunt, called a bent loop, the plane needed to reach a certain height, but Hill ‘did not reach the height required, but nevertheless continued the manoeuvre’.

Hill, a trained Royal Air Force instructor and fast jet pilot, was seriously injured but survived the tragedy after being thrown from the aircraft.

Prosecutor Thomas Kark QC said: “The effects of that crash were devastating, and 11 people lost their lives as a result.

“Mr Hill miraculously escaped, because his cockpit separated from the rest of the aircraft ending in a ditch, his seat was left lying on the ground.”

The court heard until the moment of the crash, there was ‘nothing wrong’ with the flying capabilities of the aircraft.

Mr Kark said: “It was in excellent working condition.

“The crash happened purely by pilot error.”

The court heard Hill had been halted for performing a ‘dangerous’ stunt just a year before at another airshow.

In a ‘rare’ turn of events, Mr Kark said Hill’s display at the Southport air show had to be stopped because a stunt ‘took him far too close to the crowd’.

“On one occasion, just a year before, at the Southport air show he performed a dangerous manoeuvre and his display was then halted by the flight director of that display calling what is known as a ‘stop stop stop’,” he told the court.

“Such is a rare event and was issued on that occasions because the manoeuvre he performed took him far too close to the crowd and was dangerous.

“Unfortunately, on this occasion in 2015 at Shoreham no one had time to call out a ‘stop’ and his display ended in tragedy.”

Hill, of Standon Road, Buntingford, Hertfordshire, also faces one charge of endangering an aircraft. He denies all charges. His trial is expected to last five weeks.

The trial continues.

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Reporting by Grainne Cuffe.