Jury hears of pilot’s ‘catalogue of errors’ before fatal Shoreham crash

Film footage shows Andrew Hill performing loop manoeuvre and crashing on to main road

Aircrash during the Shoreham Airshow on August 22nd,  2015, where pilot Andrew Hill was performing a stunt in a 1950s Hawker Hunter before it plummeted on to the A27 in West Sussex and exploded into a fireball killing 11 men.  Photograph: Sussex Police/CPS/PA Wire

Aircrash during the Shoreham Airshow on August 22nd, 2015, where pilot Andrew Hill was performing a stunt in a 1950s Hawker Hunter before it plummeted on to the A27 in West Sussex and exploded into a fireball killing 11 men. Photograph: Sussex Police/CPS/PA Wire

 

Footage from the cockpit of a vintage fighter jet showing the moments before it crashed at Shoreham airshow, killing 11 people, has been shown to jurors.

The film, never before seen in public, was played on Thursday at the Old Bailey where the jet’s pilot, Andrew Hill, is standing trial on 11 charges of manslaughter by gross negligence.

Mr Hill, who denies the charges, was performing a stunt when the 1950s Hawker Hunter plummeted on to the A27 in West Sussex and exploded into a fireball on August 22nd, 2015.

As relatives of the victims sat quietly in the packed public gallery, the court was told that the footage from a GoPro camera positioned behind the pilot’s seat showed Mr Hill performing a flypast parallel to Shoreham airport’s runway, inverting the aircraft and then performing a stunt called a Derry roll.

The A27 comes into view before the camera shows the sky as Mr Hill begins the fatal loop manoeuvre. Initially nothing can be heard other than the sound of the engine, before the aircraft begins to judder.

Tom Kark QC, prosecuting, told jurors there was a “catalogue of errors” on Mr Hill’s part, including that he failed to take evasive action to carry out an escape manoeuvre.

Jurors were also shown footage shot by spectators at the side of the road showing the plane performing the stunt and then crashing on to the main road.

Mr Hill, of Sandon, Buntingford, Hertfordshire, lowered his head in the dock when the moment of impact was shown, and then looked at the jury.

Cognitive impairment

Karim Khalil, defending, told the court that the pilot, a Royal Air Force instructor and British Airways commercial captain, had been unfairly maligned. He said Mr Hill had no memory of the crash and “may have been suffering cognitive impairment”.

The lawyer said: “He was subjected to the increasing forces of gravity. Pilot error does not explain what happened here at all. He is not a cavalier pilot and not a pilot who, as is suggested, plays fast and loose [with the rules]. Quite the contrary. He did not deliberately fail to take evasive action.”

Feeling unwell

Immediately after the crash, Mr Hill told emergency services he did not know what happened but felt “terrible” and had been feeling unwell, the court heard.

Mr Kark said exposure to G-force was routine for any experienced pilot, and cognitive impairment was different to the temporary effects of G-force.

“If a pilot continued to fly an aerobatic display above a crowd of spectators, knowing that he was unwell, then that, we would suggest, would be capable of amounting to a gross breach of his duty of care.” – Guardian