On Saturday 22nd August, a pilot tragically crashed a plane into a main road in Sussex.
The Hawker Hunter jet, piloted by Andy Hill, was taking part in the annual Shoreham air show. During a stunt where the plane makes a loop, the pilot lost control and failed to pull out of the manoeuvre and crashed into the A27, colliding with traffic. 11 men were killed.
Today saw the opening of Andy Hill’s trial for Manslaughter by Gross Negligence, charges he denies.
The court were told how the vintage Hawker Hunter, which was in ‘excellent working order’ had ascended to about 2,800ft (850m) when Hill attempted the manoeuvre- 1,000ft below the required height at the top of the loop.
Tom Hark QC, prosecuting, explained to the court how Mr Hill should not have started his descent, but nevertheless continued the manoeuvre”.
“He did not have the height to pull the aircraft out of its dive, back to level flight at a safe height and, as a result he crashed into the ground… The aircraft disintegrated and that crash caused a massive fireball…The effects of that crash were devastating and eleven people lost their lives as a result.”
Hill survived the crash due to his cockpit becoming separated from the rest of the aircraft and landing in a nearby ditch.
Hill is deemed an experience pilot, serving in the RAF between 1985 and 1994 before becoming a commercial pilot. However, he has been known in the past to take risks, with a previous air show halted due to his dangerous flying.
Display pilots hold a heavy responsibility in ensuring that they plan their displays carefully so that no-one is put at risk. The prosecution case is that is was Hill’s ‘serious negligence’ that led to the loss of 11 lives on that fateful day.
The trial is expected to last several weeks.