Shoreham airshow crash: here's what happened on day one of pilot Andy Hill's trial
The trial of Shoreham airshow crash pilot Andy Hill opened today, with prosecutor Tom Kark QC arguing that he had been negligent.
Hill, 54, of Standon Road, Buntingford, faces 11 charges of manslaughter by gross negligence. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Hill was performing a series of stunts in a Hunter Hawker jet when it crashed onto the A27 in August 2015.
The tragedy took the lives of 11 men and the emotional effects are still being felt in the community today.
Opening the case this morning, prosecutor Tom Kark QC said: "The effects of that crash were devastating, and eleven people lost their lives as a result.
"Mr Hill miraculously escaped, because his cockpit separated from the rest of the aircraft ending in a ditch, his seat was thrown out of the cockpit and he was left lying on the ground."
Hill was performing a stunt at the air show in the summer of 2015 and despite not reaching the required height, continued with it anyway, it was said.
The Old Bailey heard that to perform the stunt, called a bent loop, the plane needed to reach a certain height, but Hill ‘did not reach the height required, but nevertheless continued the manoeuvre’.
'No evidence' of a fault with the aircraft
Mr Kark said that there is nothing to suggest an aircraft fault contributed to the tragedy.
He continued: "The flying controls, the hydraulic systems, the electrical systems, the airspeed indicators - all were subject to examination following the crash.
"Although some parts could not be tested due to the damage there is no evidence that any failure of the aircraft or parts contributed to the crash.
"The engine was examined by the Rolls Royce Air Safety Department and they found nothing that would prevent the engine operating across its full range of power.
"There is no evidence that anything went wrong with the engine."
'1000 feet too low'
The prosecution argued that Hill was far too low at the top of the loop to be able to finish the stunt safely.
Mr Kark said: "The height at which the aircraft was horizontal was too low, probably by as much as a thousand feet below the height required safety to complete that manoeuvre."
"Not only was Hill too low, the prosecution told the court, but he elected not to safely disengage from the stunt.
"There was a straightforward escape manoeuvre that could be performed.
"Mr Hill caused the aircraft to commit to the loop and go nose down towards the vertical descent.
"Any air crash, involving pilot error, will normally involve a competent and skilled pilot.
"The prosecution case is that Mr Hill, on this occasion fell far below his usual standards."
Mr Hill's previous 'dangerous' stunts
The jury heard that the failed 'bent loop' stunt at Shoreham which went so tragically wrong was not the first time he had executed ill-advised manoeuvres.
Mr Kark said: "Although he may be described as a careful and competent display pilot there have also been times when he has taken risks or flown in a way one would not expect a careful and competent fast jet display pilot to do.
"On one occasion, just a year before at the Southport air show he performed a dangerous manoeuvre and his display was then halted by the flight director of that display calling what is known as a ‘stop, stop, stop'. "
The jury heard that between 2013 and 2015 there were just five 'STOP STOP STOP' calls.
Hill feeling 'unwell' before Shoreham airshow crash
Prosecutor: "Mr Hill was of course sitting at the front of what was in effect a very large jet engine.
"It appears that the cockpit carried on travelling and the destruction caused by the crash was mostly behind him. his seat was thrown clear of the cockpit.
""As he was being treated [by medical staff] Mr Hill was asked if he had been feeling unwell before he crash and he replied 'yes'."
The trial continues.
MORE FROM THE TRIAL: ‘Pilot error’ led to tragedy which claimed 11 lives