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Shoreham Airshow pilot ‘did nothing to avoid crash’

The Old Bailey was told by the chairman of the event’s flying committee that Andrew Hill wasn’t trying to miss the ground.

The crash during the Shoreham Airshow on August 22 2015 (Sussex Police/CPS)
The crash during the Shoreham Airshow on August 22 2015 (Sussex Police/CPS)

The pilot of the vintage fighter jet did “nothing” to avoid the Shoreham Airshow crash which killed 11 men, a court heard.

Derek Davis, chairman of the event’s flying committee, told the Old Bailey on Friday it looked like the Hawker Hunter was “not being controlled” by pilot Andrew Hill as it plummeted to the ground on August 22 2015.

Hill, 54, is standing trial after denying 11 charges of manslaughter by gross negligence.

Giving evidence, Mr Davis said he became concerned when the plane began its descent and he did not see “full power” kick in as would be expected.

But he said nothing happened and the plane continued “waffling” downwards to the ground, adding: “I thought the aircraft on the descent was not being controlled.

“He wasn’t desperately trying to miss the ground or anything.

“There was nothing like that happening.

“He wasn’t doing anything.”

Mr Davis told jurors he did not issue a stop call or try to contact Hill over radio because if an aircraft looks like it is in trouble or is doing something “unusual”, a call from organisers on the ground could “interfere” while the pilot could be working “extremely hard” to rectify the problem.

He added: “We wait until the aircraft seems to be in reasonable control.”

Defence barristers for Hill told the court he had “cognitive impairment” at the time of the crash.

Another experienced pilot and instructor, squadron leader Daniel Arlett, described the crash as “un-survivable” and said it was a “massive error to be that low at the top of the loop”.

Mr Arlett, who knew Hill vaguely as a colleague, said he feared he had died in the crash but still tried to call him afterwards.

The court previously heard a stop call had to be issued to halt a display Hill was carrying out at Southport Airshow in 2014 – a year before the crash. Prosecutors say this was because he was performing a “dangerous manoeuvre”.

Mr Arlett was the chief instructor at the show and told the court Hill sent him a text afterwards which said: “1 f*** up by me – suitably debriefed!”

Asked if Hill took his flying displays seriously, Mr Arlett responded: “Very.”

The former owner of the 1950s fighter jet told how he watched its last flight and feared it would end in disaster.

Thomas Moloney, who has been a pilot for around 30 years, bought the plane in 1997 from the Ministry of Defence and refurbished it before selling it on to Jet Heritage.

He was at the West Sussex airfield watching the display with friends and family when the plane failed to complete a loop and crashed in a fireball on the A27, engulfing spectators and motorists.

Mr Moloney told the court: “It was a lovely day.

“There were light winds and fairly clear skies, almost perfect display weather.”

As he watched the display he noticed the plane was slowing down as it went into the manoeuvre.

He said: “At the time I was quite shocked as the air speed was quite slow.”

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11 people were killed in the crash (Sussex Police/CPS)

He told the court he had a “sickening feeling” and turned to his friend, who was also a pilot, and, referring to Hill, said: “Well, he’s dead then,” as he realised the crash was “inevitable” because there was not sufficient altitude to pull out of the stunt.

He told the court he turned away after seeing the “huge fireball”.

Hill was left in a critical condition after the crash and placed into an induced coma before being discharged from hospital.

One of the first medics on the scene told of the devastation which faced him as emergency services tried to save Hill’s life.

Red Cross nurse Tony Kemp told jurors he had to climb through undergrowth to make his way towards the plane and could see “a lot of debris” as the blaze from the aircraft still raged in the background.

He saw between 30 and 40 people being led away for medical assistance and at one point the team realised firefighters were no longer able to tackle the nearby flames as they had run out of water, he said.

He found Hill lying flat on the ground without a helmet and originally thought he was unconscious but then saw his eyes opening as he started to respond to questions.

In a recording played to the jury of the moments after the crash Hill is barely audible and can be heard groaning as medics try to talk to him.

He was heard saying “ow, ow, ow” and “Come on guys, take me away, take me away”, according to a transcript read to the court.

Mr Kemp said: “I remember he had quite a lot of blood around his face.”

He had symptoms consistent with a head injury and his medical condition was getting worse, Mr Kemp said.

He was becoming more agitated, trying to move and was struggling to follow the conversation which had to be repeated, he added.

Then he “collapsed very rapidly” and was at risk of having a cardiac arrest but the team managed to save his life. He was sedated with 50mg of ketamine and taken to hospital.

Mr Kemp told the court without immediate medical treatment he would have died at the scene.

The trial, expected to last eight weeks, continues on Monday.

PA

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