Pilot in Shoreham Airshow disaster could have got his planes mixed up, inquest heard

·2-min read
A cloud of smoke at the Shoreham Airshow disaster <i>(Image: Martyn Valentine)</i>
A cloud of smoke at the Shoreham Airshow disaster (Image: Martyn Valentine)

The pilot of the Shoreham Airshow disaster could have got his planes mixed up before crashing on the A27.

An inquest into the deaths of 11 men who died when a vintage Hawker Hunter burst into a massive fireball heard the plane was too low and slow to complete a loop.

Pilot Andrew Hill was flying at the right height for a different jet when he tried to perform a loop, an expert told an inquest.

At the top of the loop, when the aircraft was flying upside down, Mr Hill was at the right height to complete the manoeuvre in the Jet Provost, a type of trainer aircraft.

He was flying too low to come out of it safely in the Hunter, a jet-powered fighter aircraft.

Coroner Penelope Scholfield asked if it was possible the pilot had mistakenly flown to the height needed for the Jet Provost and not the Hunter.

“It’s certainly a distinct possibility," said Julian Firth, inspector from the Government's air accidents investigations branch.

Mr Hill had flown nine displays in the two weeks before the crash.

Two of those displays were in the Jet Provost and seven in the RV-8, a single-engine aircraft.

Asked if it was possible he mixed up the height needed for the Hunter with the Jet Provost, Julian Firth said: “It is a significant error, ma’am.”

The 11 men were killed when the Hunter came too low out of the loop directly over the A27 on August 22, 2015.

They were all outside the area of the airshow.

The inquest opened last Wednesday, November 30 after years of delays and began with families sharing heartfelt tributes to their lost loved ones.

In recent days, witnesses to the incident have told the inquest of the horror of seeing a "massive fireball" during the crash.

One witness described “the ear-piercingly loud scream of the jet engine" as it crashed.

Mr Hill, the pilot, survived the crash and was acquitted of manslaughter following an Old Bailey trial. He maintains that he has no memory of the tragedy.

The inquest in Horsham continues.