Shoreham air disaster: Pilot 'flew too low over M11' year before A27 crash which killed eleven, court hears

A year after practising near the M11 bordering Duxford, Andrew Hill crashed in a fireball on the A27 dual carriageway when his 2015 Shoreham air show display went wrong

Footage shows devastating moment of Shoreham air crash

A fast jet pilot flew too low over the M11 motorway about a year before he crashed in a fireball on the A27 dual carriageway during the Shoreham air show, a court heard.

Andrew Hill was practising his Hawker Hunter jet display over Duxford airfield in Cambridgeshire ahead of the 2014 Shoreham air show in Sussex, the Old Bailey was told.

Analysing cockpit video of the 2014 flight for the benefit of the jury, prosecution expert witness Jonathon Whaley said Hill breached airfield rules against flying below 500ft over the M11, which is close to one end of the Duxford runway.

Mr Whaley, a former Fleet Air Arm pilot with extensive Hawker Hunter flying experience, told the court: “Duxford has several standing rules. One of them was ‘no overflying of the M11 below 500ft [altitude]’.

“I can take a reading of the altimeter. You can see it was 250ft or 200ft.

“Basically, you don’t want an aeroplane, especially a jet, flying low over a motorway with cars and lorries going up and down it.”

About a year later, at the 2015 Shoreham Air Show, Hill’s Hawker Hunter crashed in flames on the A27, killing 11 people.

Hill, 54, of Sandon in Hertfordshire, is now on trial accused of 11 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.

The prosecution alleges Hill had been far too low at the top of a loop to have been able to complete it safely, but committed himself to the stunt rather than aborting it, with disastrous consequences.

Graphic shown to jury details Shoreham air crash which killed 11 people in 2015

Hill, however, denies the charges. His defence is that he had not been in full control of his actions when he attempted the loop, possibly because the G-force experienced while manoeuvring the fast jet had caused him cognitive impairment.

The court has heard that two years after crash, he gave a statement saying: “I cannot think of any reason why, if I was fully aware of what was going on, I would have flown the manoeuvre in the manner reported.”

The prosecution, however, maintains that although Hill was a competent and skilled pilot, there were occasions when he played "fast and loose" with safety rules.

Analysing the video of the 2014 Duxford flight, Mr Whaley said there were points at which Hill also breached an imaginary ‘crowd line’, meaning that if he had been displaying at a real air show, he would have flown over spectators in a way that pilots are supposed to avoid.

He added: “If that had been a display authorisation evaluator sitting in the [passenger] seat, I would say he was at risk of having a severe talking to, at risk of having his display authorisation taken away.”

Hill now has no memory of the crash.

The court has heard that in the immediate aftermath, he told a paramedic working to save his life that “he had at some point blacked out in the air”.

The trial continues.

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