Minimum display heights increased after Shoreham Airshow disaster

MP Tim Loughton and David Cameron on the Old Toll Bridge SUS-150923-091045001
MP Tim Loughton and David Cameron on the Old Toll Bridge SUS-150923-091045001

Pilots of ex-military jets must perform aerobatic manoeuvres at higher altitudes as part of enhanced airshow safety requirements in the wake of the Shoreham Airshow disaster.

A final report released today by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) built on initial reports, which included a range of extra safety measures for future civil air displays.

It will have implications for future airshows, including Airbourne at Eastbourne. Shoreham Airshow has been cancelled this year in the wake of last year’s tragedy, which claimed the lives of 11 men when a vintage Hawker Hunter hit the A27.

CAA chairman Dame Deirdre Hutton said: “Air shows are enjoyed by millions of people up and down the country and we want them to be successful. And while we recognise implementing these changes will require significant work from the air show community, we believe they are essential to enhancing the safety of UK air shows and safety must always be the top priority.

“We are already working with the air show community to make sure these measures are implemented for the upcoming display season and beyond, and so that the public has every confidence that UK air shows meet the highest safety standards.”

The new requirements include:

- Increasing the minimum altitude ex-military jets can undertake aerobatic manoeuvres

- Increased distances between crowd and display lines where distances were previously less than those in place for military displays

- Greater post-airshow reporting requirements to reflect the importance of feedback and safety reporting

- Greater competency requirements for pilots

The final report includes a general section about ‘human error’, stating pilots were ‘considerably more likely to crash when flying at an audience event’.

The report speculates whether this indicated the situation could create additional anxiety and stress.

The CAA will commence a programme of work to enhance understanding of human factors, starting with a workshop on the causes and impact of human error for display pilots.

Civilian Hawker Hunter jets remain grounded, while existing restrictions on display manouveres are still in place.

The additional rules will remain in place until the conclusion of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) report into the accident is published.

Dame Hutton added: “We began this review immediately after the accident at Shoreham last summer with the sole purpose of doing all that we can to make UK civil air shows even safer.

“It has been an extensive review, looking closely at all aspects of air show safety to identify any areas where the system can be strengthened.”