Shoreham Airshow trial: top pilot made error trying to recreate 2015 stunt that ended in tragedy
An expert pilot trying to recreate the stunt that ended in tragedy at the Shoreham Airshow made an error and pulled up with just 200ft to spare.
A video shown in court shows David Southwood flying a similar plane to the Hawker Hunter which crashed in 2015, killing 11 people.
Andy Hill, 54, of Standon Road, Buntingford, who was flying the Hunter when it crashed is standing trial charged with 11 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence. He denies the offices.
On Friday, the jury head from another pilot who said he would have abandoned the manouevre which ultimately killed 11 people.
Mr Southwood – one of the top display pilots in the country – carried out tests following the Shoreham Airshow crash in order to provide data to investigators.
The video shown to the jury this afternoon shows Mr Southwood flying a similar plane to the Hunter and trying to recreate the first half of the fatal 2015 loop stunt.
The jet can be seen to pitch up vertically and then enter a loop, climbing until it was flying upside down (the apex of the loop).
Mr Southwood said he did not intend to then pull down and complete the loop, planning to perform an escape manoeuvre.
However the court heard that he instead continued with the loop, levelling out when he was about 200ft above the ground. He said this was an error.
Defence barrister Karim Khalil QC made the point that Mr Southwood was a pilot at the top of his field and yet still made this error.
Mr Southwood said: “Every pilot makes error every time you go flying.
“I have certainly never made an error allied to this while display flying.”
He told the court that this error came after he had just performed a series of full loop manoeuvres and this could have caused the mental lapse.
Andy Hill’s failed stunt that ended in tragedy in 2015 did not come after a series of loops.
Answering questions from defence barrister Mr Khalil, Mr Southwood said that pilots can lose tolerance to G-forces if they are not exposed to them for a period of time.
However prosecutor Tom Kark QC asked him: “If a person was display [flying] regularly would you expect there to be tolerance diminishment?”
Mr Southwood replied: “No.”
The trial of Andy Hill is now in its fourth week. It will not sit tomorrow and will resume on Wednesday.
The jury is expected to retire and consider the evidence at some point during the week beginning Monday, March 4.
The trial continues.