Air crash investigators find Sandon pilot was to blame for ‘fireball’ crash which killed 11 as well as faults with guidance and training

Andy Hill

Andy Hill - Credit: Archant

A pilot from Sandon in Hertfordshire has been found to blame for errors which caused his plane to plummet onto a dual carriageway leading to the deaths of 11 men

A Hawker Hunter like the one that crashed at Shoreham

A Hawker Hunter like the one that crashed at Shoreham - Credit: Archant

Andy Hill, 52, was flying the vintage Hawker Hunter at the Shoreham Air Show on August 22 2015, when it ploughed into the A27, bursting into a ball of flame and destroying vehicles.

Miraculously Mr Hill survived but has since faced a manslaughter investigation by Sussex Police who have interviewed hum under caution.

13 others including Mr Hill, were injured in the crash but the pilot says he can remember nothing about it.

In its final report into the disaster published today, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch found a series of failings.

AAIB principal inspector Julian Firth concluded the pilot was carrying out a manoeuvre involving both pitching and rolling the aircraft, but started it from a height lower than the authorised minimum height for aerobatics.

He was also travelling too slowly and with less than the thrust needed to complete the stunt.

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Although he could have pulled out of the move safely, the report found Mr Hill did not appear to notice the aircraft was too low.

This could have been because he had not read the altimeter properly due to workload, or because he was distracted by glare, had misread the instrument or had incorrectly remembered the minimum height needed for the move.

However the AAIB also found the guidance given to pilots about the minimum height at which aerobatic manoeuvres may be started may be unclear.

It stated: “There was evidence that other pilots do not always check or perceive correctly that the required height has been achieved at the apex of manoeuvres.

Training and assessment procedures in place at the time of the accident did not prepare the pilot fully for the conduct of relevant escape manoeuvres in the Hunter.”

The outcome of the crash was found to be so severe because it happened outside the area of ground controlled by the air show.

Other factors involved in the crash were identified as:

- The pilot did not believe an escape manoeuvre was possible or necessary

- The pilot had not received formal training to escape from the manoeuvre in a Hunter and had not had his competence to do so assessed.

- The pilot had not practised the technique for escaping from the accident manoeuvre in a Hunter, and did not know the minimum speed from which an escape manoeuvre could be carried out successfully.

- The aircraft had changed course during the manoeuvre positioning it further east than planned over the A27 dual carriageway.

Investigators have interviewed Mr Hill several times but he can’t remember anything about the accident. They say his flight helmet had dents in so it’s possible he hit his head.

They have considered whether the pilot got confused with the aircraft he usually flies – a Jet Provost, which he normally flies.

Sussex Police has said it will be looking at the AAIB report using its own experts.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Rymarz said: “We continue to keep the families of those who lost their lives updated as we progress with our investigation.

“We have been waiting some time for this report and it will take us some time to review. Our progress has been dependent on this final report and as a result of the ruling in the High Court, much of the material contained in it has not been seen by the investigation team until now.

“We hope to do everything we can to submit a file of material to the CPS in advance of the pre-inquest review on June 20.

“As we have said before, this is an extraordinarily complex investigation, but we remain committed to finding answers for the families and friends of those who died.”

Safety measures at all UK civil air shows were tightened up following the disaster and the CAA said it had reviewed every aspect of air display safety.

The AAIB made 21 safety recommendations which were all accepted by the Civil Aviation Authority this year.