Posted on January 18, 2019
Pilot Andrew Hill was performing a stunt in a 1950s Hawker Hunter before it plummeted onto the A27 in West Sussex and exploded into a fireball at 1.22pm on 22 August 2015. The 54-year-old trained Royal Air Force instructor is standing trial at the Old Bailey after denying 11 charges of manslaughter by gross negligence. On Thursday, jurors watched never-before-seen footage from the cockpit of the plane. Tom Kark QC, prosecuting, previously told the court the crash was “purely” because of “pilot error” after the aircraft was flown too low and too slow. After showing the footage, Mr Kark told jurors there was a “catalogue of errors” on Hill’s part, including that he failed to take evasive action to carry out an escape manoeuvre.
Jurors were shown footage shot by spectators at the side of the road which shows the plane in the sky performing the stunt and crashing into the main road, as well as being shown footage from a Go-Pro camera positioned behind the pilot’s seat. Immediately after the crash, Mr Hill told emergency services he did not remember or know what happened but felt “terrible” and had been feeling unwell, the court heard.
Mr Kark said: “The aircraft crashed as a result of Mr Hill’s negligence and as such this breach of duty caused the deaths of 11 men. Having regard to the serious and obvious risk of death, the negligence of Mr Hill was truly exceptionally bad such as to amount to the criminal offence of gross negligence manslaughter.” He said exposure to G force was “routine” for any experienced pilot and that cognitive impairment was different to the temporary effects of G force, adding: “If a pilot continued to fly an aerobatic display above a crowd of spectators, knowing that he was unwell, then that, we would suggest, would be capable of amounting to a gross breach of his duty of care.”
But Karim Khalil, defending, told jurors criticisms made of Hill – a RAF instructor and British Airways commercial captain – were “either wrong or misplaced.” He said Hill had no memory of the crash and “may have been suffering cognitive impairment”, adding: “He was subjected to the increasing forces of gravity.” The court heard he was left with serious, life-threatening injuries and that his life was saved by being thrown from the plane after which he was placed in a medically induced coma.