Shoreham Airshow crash trial: Pilot has 'no memory' of 'dreadful tragedy'

Pilot Andy Hill is on trial at the Old Bailey. Photo: Getty Images
Pilot Andy Hill is on trial at the Old Bailey. Photo: Getty Images

The pilot whose plane crashed at the Shoreham Airshow has told his trial he has spent most of the last three years trying to resolve what had happened in the 'dreadful tragedy'.

Andy Hill said he had no memory of what happened the day the Hawker Hunter jet he was flying crashed, leading to the deaths of 11 people.

He told the court his last recollection was from Wednesday, August 19 - three days before the crash.

His next memory was being woken up in hospital from an induced coma, the court heard.

Hill said: "Most of the last three years have been spent in trying to resolve what happened.

"It caused a dreadful tragedy to lots of people. I was the pilot, I was in charge of the aircraft."

The 54-year-old, of Standon Road, Buntingford, denies 11 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.

Hill returned to the witness stand this morning to continue answering questions from defence barrister Karim Khalil QC.

From looking at footage of the flight, Hill said he could pinpoint the moment at which 'everything starts being anomalous'.

After carrying out a long turn at a constant speed, he said the speed of the plane reduces and the aircraft does not accelerate as it should into the bent loop.

He said this was 'the complete opposite' of what should have happened.

"Why did I take the power off?" he asked.

The aircraft ended up pointing at the north end of the runway, instead of the south, he said.

He also said lining up with the roadway did not make any sense.

Hill confirmed he had been told not to look at the latter part of the footage from the event because of what it might trigger.

'I embarrassed myself'

Earlier today, the court heard Hill describe making a mistake at an airshow display in Southport in 2014 which required him to carry out an escape manoeuvre.

He had been carrying out a Canadian Break manoeuvre which involved a 270 degree roll in a jet provost, when Hill said: "I had one of those nasty dawning moments that for whatever reason I was going to be too close to the crowd line."

He decided to carry out an escape manoeuvre, which involved continuing with the manoeuvre - but increasing the rate of the roll.

He said "At the time I judged I would sacrifice some of the safety height in order to minimize my distance towards the crowd line."

Hill added: "I think I did that about as successfully as I could, give the situation I had got myself into."

A stop call came in and he returned to the base.

Back at the hotel, Hill said he had a 10 minute conversation with an inspector from the Civil Aviation Authority and later spoke to the Flying Control Committee about what had happened.

Hill said he acknowledged he had made a mistake and said he had 'embarrassed himself'.

He said: "I was as open and honest about it as I could be."

Hill said he flew in the display again the next day, though he removed this manoeuvre from his plans, and said it went 'very well'.

Display at Shoreham in 2014

Mr Khalil then asked him about taking part in the airshow in Shoreham in 2014.

Mr Khalil said concerns had been raised that he had flown over a corner of the demarcated no fly zone over Lancing College.

Hill said he had originally intended to turn to the east of the college, but decided instead to fly to the west.

When he saw a video of the flight he thought it looked 'strange' and as though he had flown 'very close' to the college.

But after analysis he said it was 'very easily' ascertained that he was a 'long way' from the college.

Not 'cavalier' or 'thrill-seeking'

Taking to the witness stand for the first time yesterday, Hill told the court he was not 'cavalier' when it came to safety.

He said: "It was the primary aim of the air display to avoid risk."

Hill claimed he was in 'total control' at a practice in Duxford in 2015, despite accusations that he had breached height restrictions.

'Pilot error' versus 'cognitive impairment'

The trial at the Old Bailey is now in its fifth week, with jurors expected to continue hearing evidence until early March.

The prosecution argue that Hill was negligent and the disaster was caused by pilot error.

However the pilot's defence have said that Hill suffered a cognitive impairment at some point during the flight and not in control of what he was doing.

Once Mr Khalil has finished asking questions the floor will be given over to prosecutor Tom Kark QC to question Hill.

The trial continues.