Aviation History

What Happened In The World Of Aviation After The Shoreham Airshow Crash?

A look at how the Shoreham Airshow crash changed airshows in the UK.

Some shots taken during UK airshows throughout the years (Pictures: Ministry of Defence).

The tragic crash that happened on 22 August 2015 at the Shoreham Airshow served as a stark reminder of the risks involved during air displays.

The pilot of the 1950s Hawker Hunter jet that came down at the Shoreham Airshow killing 11 men was found not guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence.

Andrew Hill's ex-military jet exploded in a fireball on the A27 in Sussex at the airshow in 2015 after failing a complete loop manoeuvre.

But how has this incident changed the world of aviation?

The tragedy and subsequent safety recommendations immediately forced change on the industry, which will have a lasting impact on airshows.

All Hawker Hunter planes were instantly grounded and ex-military jets were banned from performing aerobatics over land as the airshow season continued.

Regulator the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced that it would conduct a robust evaluation of existing guidance, processes and all regulations relating to civil air displays.

The CAA subsequently increased the altitude at which ex-military jets could perform manoeuvres, and the crowd would have to stand further away. 

The new rules also incorporated tougher checks on pilots and improved risk assessments.

This also meant higher charges to fund the new safety measures, which led to the cancellation of the Manchester Air Show.

At the time, the 'Keep Air Shows Airborne' campaign called for Lottery funding to help air shows raising money for charity.

Footage capturing the moments before the Shoreham Airshow crash was shown to a jury.

The accident at Shoreham was the first in the UK since 1952 that resulted in the death of a member of the public.

Some families received compensation after an admission of civil liability was made by the plane's owner Canfield Hunter Ltd.

Some airshow organisers said they were forced to cancel their events in 2016 after the CAA increased fees.

The regulator said it would raise the prices for licences and permission for events in stages over three years, citing the cost of introducing new safety measures.

Some displays are now limited to flypasts.

A divided public opinion

Retired Air Accidents Investigation Branch investigator Phil Giles, who worked for the organisation for 16 years before becoming an adviser, said the crash had major repercussions on the aviation industry.

He said the days of "thrilling the crowd" with a display are long gone.

This month, Farnborough International Airshow said it had scrapped its public display weekend in 2020.

Organisers said the impact of the Shoreham air crash contributed to the decision and attendance had almost halved in 10 years.

Andy Hill's friend and fellow pilot Sean Maffett said the crash had ramifications on the airshow industry: "The display pilots I have spoken to have said they do not want to do this anymore.

"It makes it more difficult to find a flying display director [for an airshow] these days. They don't want to do it.

"It really was a huge shock when it happened - to the whole airshow industry.

"There was change instantly.

The ramifications have been continuing."

Andrew Hill Shoreham pilot
Andrew Hill was attempting a loop when his Hawker Hunter jet exploded into a fireball on the A27 (Picture: PA).

Meanwhile, families of the Shoreham Airshow crash victims have called for a "thorough and frank" investigation.

Sarah Stewart, a partner at law firm Stewarts, represented many of the families of the 11 men killed at the 2015 show in West Sussex.

Four years on, they have settled compensation claims for undisclosed sums of money but are still waiting for answers.

Ms Stewart said the criminal trial of pilot Andrew Hill for manslaughter by gross negligence had put inquests "on hold".

Sentinel & Red Arrows RAF Scampton Airshow 2017 Royal Air Force
A Sentinel and the Red Arrows at RAF Scampton Airshow in 2017 (Picture: RAF).

The trial's conclusion means that West Sussex Coroner Penelope Schofield can move ahead with full inquests and a thorough investigation into the wider issues surrounding the crash. The lawyer said:

"Many families do not look for compensation.

They want answers so that future deaths can be prevented.

"The inquest will enable a wider investigation into the deaths that occurred by examining the legal framework or rules relating to the supervision of pilots, flights, aircraft and airshows, as well as the various systems in place - including safety planning - to protect observers of the airshow and those in close proximity to it."

Most recent of a long list

In 1952, 31 people, including pilot John Derry, were killed when a fighter jet crashed during the Farnborough Airshow in Hampshire.

Just three years later, the pilot of a Hawker Hunter was killed during a fly-by at the same venue.

A year later, "Birdman" parachutist Leo Valentin fell to his death at a display in Liverpool after his wooden wings collided with his jump plane.

In 1968, six members of the French Air Force were killed in a crash while performing a single engine demonstration at Farnborough.

Twenty people, pilot John Derry, a passenger and 18 spectators, were killed at the Farnborough Airshow in 1952 (Picture: PA).

In 2001, three pilots died at Biggin Hill airshow in two days, including former Red Arrow Guy Bancroft-Wilson.

An official accident report into the incident found he may have crashed a Second World War fighter plane because he was not flying fast enough to complete an aerial loop.

In 2000, former Red Arrow Ted Girdler failed to pull up from a diving roll and crashed a 1957 Czech-built military plane into the English Channel off Eastbourne, East Sussex.

The 62-year-old Flight Lieutenant, from Kent, was killed and two people swimming in the sea received medical treatment after ingesting aviation fuel.

Four years later, in August 2011, Red Arrows pilot Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging, 33, died during an airshow in Bournemouth, Dorset.

An inquest heard he may have succumbed to G-force impairment before attempting to correct his course in the moments before the impact.