UPDATE: Final airshow safety report '˜must not be last step'

Airshow authorities must continue to improve safety guidelines in the wake of the Shoreham Airshow disaster, a lawyer representing victims of the crash believes.

Tributes laid at the Old Toll Bridge in Shoreham, which became a focal point for memorials after the crash. Picture by Eddie Mitchell
Tributes laid at the Old Toll Bridge in Shoreham, which became a focal point for memorials after the crash. Picture by Eddie Mitchell

Jim Morris, a specialist aviation lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, has responded to the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) final report following the crash, which was published this morning.

Mr Morris said: “Any accident such as this is bound to result in major changes to improve safety in future. This was the first major incident involving public fatalities at an airshow for 60 years.

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“It has been a big wake-up call and many potential areas of improvement to safety guidelines were highlighted by the tragic events last August.

“The new rules cover the distance the crowd can stand from the display, increased minimum altitudes for manoeuvres, strengthening the competency requirements for pilots and the reporting for event organisers.

“It is now important that this final report from the CAA is not be the last step and that a continuous programme of monitoring and refinement takes place to ensure the new guidance achieves what it is setting out to do.

“Although no one wants to dampen the enjoyment that many people derive from airshows, it’s quite clear that the regulations for organisers looking to put on a display had to be improved to reduce the risk of similar issues in future.”

Mr Morris is representing and advising those injured in the crash.

East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton said there were ‘sensible, common sense’ recommendations but warned increasing fees imposed by the CAA could threaten the viability of smaller events.

He welcomed the CAA’s ‘balanced approach’, arguing airshows should not be ‘regulated out of existence’. He pointed to more stringent regulations in the United States, which has a worse accident rate.

He said: “Clearly there are sensible, common sense recommendations, including banning jets from performing below 500ft, designating a wide area between the air display zone and spectators, which is crucial in the case of Shoreham, particularly the inclusion of outside the airport perimeter, and there now needs to be more rigorous air assessments appropriate to the individual linked manoeuvres linked to some of the high powered jets in particular.

“The last point is at the crux of the CAA’s earlier report which suggested that appropriate risk assessments were not as exhaustive as should have been the case. It is also important that there is going to be a far better reporting mechanism so that risks associated with airshow performance displays, particularly where things went wrong, are now routinely reported to the CAA and knowledge shared and lessons learned.”

Mr Loughton said there were still questions over the training and assessment of the abilities of those licensed by the CAA to hold airshows.

He said he was surprised to learn there was no registered list of such candidates and believed this was an area for further work.

He added: “First and foremost, our thoughts remain with the families of the 11 men, who so tragically lost their lives on that fateful day in August 2015 and we owe it them above all to get to the bottom of why the accident happened and do everything possible to make sure those in the air and on the ground at future air displays are kept as safe as possible.”