Aviation Expert Examines The Final Shoreham Air Show Accident Report

Friday, 3rd March 2017

Aviation Lawyer and former RAF pilot expresses concern as the full chain of events that led to this tragedy are finally revealed.

Specialist aviation lawyer at Ashfords LLP, who during his flying career in the RAF organised flying displays and flew in air shows, says that he is shocked at how things went so wrong with the Shoreham flying display.

The Hawker Hunter T7 aircraft involved in the air show in Shoreham crashed into the westbound carriageway of the A27 after a failed manoeuvre on 22 August killing 11 members of the public and leaving the pilot with serious injuries.

Today [Friday 3 March 2017] the Air Accident Investigations Brach (AAIB) published the Final Accident Report, which analyses the full chain of events and, for the first time, provides detail on the pilot's handling of the aircraft and video recordings from the cockpit. The report concludes that the causal factors were the aircraft entered the manoeuvre too slow, the engine thrust in the climb was too low which caused the apex of the manoeuvre to be too low to complete the manoeuvre. 

The other causal factor was that the pilot did not try to abort the manoeuvre, despite the aircraft being too low at the apex.

Ashfords' Aviation Team specialises in representing the victims of air accidents. Jim Morris, a former RAF pilot and Head of Aviation at Ashfords has worked at military air shows, including as a flying display coordinator at the RAF Waddington International Air Show. As a specialist aviation lawyer he has advised on and represented victims in relation to high performance military fast jet accidents as well as crashes into cities and occupied areas that have resulted in deaths and injuries to victims on the ground, including the Police Helicopter crash into the city of Glasgow and the Shoreham Air Show crash.

From a professional military pilot perspective, Jim analysed the Final Accident Report and commented: "This accident report identifies a very concerning chain of events. Previous reports have identified issues including regulation and risk assessment of air shows but this final report confirms that the wrong speeds and heights were used in the aerobatic manoeuvre and the pilot did not try to escape the manoeuvre when it was too low at the apex.

"Unfortunately the pilot cannot remember the accident so the AAIB were not able to analyse his recollection and thought process during the display. However, given that he was a very experienced military and display pilot, it is very surprising that he did not escape the manoeuvre. A Hunter test pilot confirmed that from the apex the pilot could have escaped by rolling the aircraft upright and had 4 seconds from the inverted apex to do this and avoid ground impact.

"The pilot was aware of escape manoeuvres for other military aircraft but had not practiced and had not been assessed on escape manoeuvres in the Hunter aircraft. This is extremely concerning - if he had practised this in the Hunter, it would have been fresh in his memory and he could have prevented this tragedy."

The AAIB safety recommendation that display pilots be trained and assessed on escape manoeuvres is welcomed.

Jim continues: "This Final Accident Report is hugely important for the families who have lost loved ones and the injured victims. Having represented families and victims I know how hard it is for them to read this report, but at least they now have the full published analysis by the AAIB to help them understand the full chain of events. This Air Show disaster was completely avoidable so it is crucial that the CAA, air show organisers, air show operators and air show pilots learn all the lessons from this and take measures to ensure that this never happens again."

Key Contact

Jim Morris

Partner, Barrister and Head of Aviation

[javascript protected email address]
+44 (0)20 7544 2403


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