The tragic air crash at Shoreham was the result of the pilot flying too low to complete a loop manoeuvre, according to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).
The incident in August 2015 resulted in the death of 11 people. Pilot Andrew Hill, 52, who survived, crashed a vintage jet onto the A27 in West Sussex during an air show.
Too low and too little thrust
The investigation found that the speed at which the 1955 Hawker Hunter entered the manoeuvre was too low and it failed to use maximum thrust.
Flight trials show that Mr Hill had time at the top of the loop to pull out. But either Mr Hill did not perceive it was necessary or did not realise it was possible, the AAIB said.
This could have been because the pilot hadn’t received formal training for escape manoeuvres and hadn’t had his competence to do so assessed.
The speed, height and thrust in the Hunter were “very similar” to another aircraft the pilot had flown previously. It is suggested by the report that it’s possible “the pilot recalled the wrong numbers, essentially mixing up the two aircraft”.
The severity of the outcome was down to an “absence of provisions” to mitigate the effects of an aircraft crashing in an area outside the control of the air show organisers.
Pilot has no recollection of crash
Mr Hill survived the crash but suffered serious injuries. He is now being investigated by Sussex Police for possible manslaughter.
He was interviewed on seven occasions by AAIB investigators but because of restrictions advised by his doctors they were not able to question him about his conduct during the flight, the AAIB said.
Mr Hill does not recall events between the evening of August 19 and regaining consciousness in hospital after the accident.
His display authorisation allowed him to carry out aerobatics at a minimum altitude of 500ft. The normal technique would be to enter the loop at an airspeed of at least 350 knots and use maximum engine thrust to achieve a height of at least 3,500ft at the apex.
But Mr Hill flew at just 185ft at a speed of 310 knots, reaching 2,700ft at the top of the loop.
Date Published: March 11, 2017
Author: Jonathan Brown