The pilot who crashed at the Shoreham air show, killing 11 men, took risks that “one would not expect a careful and competent fast jet display pilot to do”, a jury was told today (Wednesday 16 January).
Tom Kark, prosecuting, said that Andrew “Andy” Hill, 54, was “a careful and competent display pilot” but “on this occasion fell far below his usual standards”.
Mr Kark told a jury at the Central Criminal Court – better known as the Old Bailey – in London that Hill was to blame for the 11 men’s deaths.
Hill, of Sandon Road, Sandon, Buntingford, Hertfordshire, denies 11 charges of manslaughter by gross negligence.
Mr Kark said: “Mr Hill is an experienced pilot, having served in the Royal Air Force between 1985 and 1994 where he received flying training and subsequently served as an instructor and a fast jet pilot.
“When he left the RAF in 1994, his military experience 934 flying hours in an airplane called a Jet Provost, 188 hours in the Hawk, which is the same small jet you see the Red Arrows flying, and 517 hours in the Harrier.
“The Hawk, which was built as a trainer aircraft and is used by the Red Arrows, is not the same as the Hawker Hunter. The Hawker Hunter is a much larger fighter jet aircraft, built for warfare, and this was the aircraft that Mr Hill was flying when he crashed.
“Following his career in the RAF, Mr Hill worked in commercial aviation and in August 2015, when this event took place, he was a captain with British Airways.
“Mr Hill had been flying the Hawker Hunter since 2011 … In total Mr Hill had flown a total of 47 hours in the Hawker Hunter jet – a pilot’s flying hours include taxiing before take-off and after landing (basically from brakes off to brakes back on).
“It was Mr Hill’s duty to ensure that he planned his display in such a way … to capture the minimum aerobatic display height of 500ft following an aerobatic manoeuvre, not flying at any stage below 100ft and not infringing any of the no-fly zones around Shoreham airport.
“There is therefore a heavy responsibility which lies upon a pilot’s shoulders to plan their display carefully so that high standards are maintained and no one is put at risk.
“Mr Hill had all the necessary permits and authorisations to perform the planned aerobatic display and that he was medically fit to fly the Hawker Hunter at the Shoreham air show.
“Several witnesses know Mr Hill and we expect he will be described as a highly competent and experienced pilot.
“However, it has to be borne in mind that 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.
“Although Mr Hill may be described as a careful and competent display pilot, as you will hear, 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!’
“Such a call is a rare event and was issued on that occasion because the manoeuvre he performed took him far too close to the crowd and was dangerous.
“Unfortunately, on this occasion in 2015 at Shoreham, no one had time to call out a ‘stop!’ and his display ended in tragedy.”
The trial continues.