I was on the flight line and saw the crash from several hundred yards away. I will not offer my thoughts on the direct cause of the crash (for obvious reasons, given the nature of the internet), however I will let you know what I saw.
He flew in from North Weald, and begun his display by making a pass along runway 02, before climbing, turning left and flying directly towards where I was (in the crowd near the A27). It had flaps down at this point, and was flying fairly slowly. He was flying on an easterly heading. He then turned left again, flying on a heading of around 050. Note that I may be wrong on this – he may have done some other manoeuvres beforehand but as one can imagine, the shock of seeing that happen didn’t help my memory.
Anyway, he climbed up to an altitude of, in my opinion, 1000-1500ft. What he was performing was clearly a half cuban 8, which is when one climbs up, then rolls inverted before completing a downwards half loop and continuing on (looks like half of the number 8 on its side). Anyway, after the climb he rolled inverted and began descending inverted. I could still see that his flaps were down and I assumed that he would roll into a turn and continue (as he did when he first arrived at the show, after the low pass). I saw him fly down, and by the time the aircraft was level, he was at about 100ft. However, he was descending very fast and at a very high angle of attack. At this point, the wings began to wobble and he was still pulling up – the nose was up about 10 degrees and the aircraft was still descending very fast, at a very high angle of attack. It then disappeared behind the trees and a massive fireball appeared. Even more unfortunately, “Magic Moments” by Perry Como was playing over the tannoy at the time, which was stopped immediately after the crash, and the commentator said “what a beautiful aircraft” a few seconds before impact.
I noticed myself, along with just about everyone else, staring in disbelief with my jaw dropped. I turned to the chap standing next to me and we exchanged looks of “what the f***”. I briefly discussed what I saw with a couple of other people (such as flaps down, etc) before returning to the hangars. I was hanging around at the college, and returned there for the rest of the day. I was there with my friend, whose father is a member of Raynet, which is a bunch of HAMs who help coordinate things. He had a good idea of what happened (police etc… were in the same room, and the meeting to decide what happened with the airshow took place there) and the last number he heard was 10 fatalities, not including pilot, and some people badly burned on the ground from the fuel.
The show is cancelled for tomorrow, and the airport is closed. The A27 is closed and there is apparently damage to the road surface. All in all, a pretty shit day and I’d probably have rather stayed in bed.
Edit: some additions added below.
No more flying took place after the crash. I think that had it crashed in a field and no one hurt, some more flying may have taken place later on (such as the Hurricane crash in 2007). But due to the fact that it killed a number of people on the ground, this obviously made it a little more serious.
Very sad outcome especially for the people who died/were injured on the A27. The AAIB will hopefully be able to piece together the causes and perhaps recommendations on low level display loops in swept wing Jets may emerge. The low level aspect is aesthetic as the loop is planned to exit at a higher level, with a relatively low G pull out once the aircraft is around 7/8 of the loop. The higher energy required on entry probably means a swept wing jet would have a vertical penetration of over 5,000 feet putting it into controlled airspace – but presumably this is covered by a dispensation.
Yes, that’s what I would have expected to see. But he was very low, and as I said above his flaps were down. Some speculate loss of power, which would make sense given the inability to pull out, but having the flaps out may have the same affect. So, what I can see is 2 things wrong, independent of engine failure:
Perhaps he forgot to raise the flaps? Though, I’ve never seen anyone do that before.
UK is very different to Germany
Certainly. I have never worn a high-viz jacket on any airfield or airport in Germany, I have never have taken my thermos of coffee away (as a commercial pilot doing a commercial flight) on any German airfield or airport, I have not yet filled in a “GAR” form when flying to or from Germany anywhere, none of my passengers ever had to take their shoes off on any German airfield or airport and I was never told off for walking across a line drawn on the tarmac while pre-flighting my commercial aeroplane for a commercial flight on any German airfield or airport. In my personal experience, the UK is the most rigorous and nitpickingly correct country in Europe when safety and security of aviation is concerned. It can’t be long that they implement strict rules regarding airshow displays.
And for all the rest I am completely with Alexis. As an aviator and occasional visitor of airshows I find it totally unacceptable that unsuspecting people who drive to the sea with their family on a saturday afternoon have to die a horrible death in a fireball for our pleasure. I don’t want to die for their pleasure either. As I wrote before: As a visitor of an airshow you know about the risk involved and can decide yourself whether to go there or stay home. But involving the general public in the risks of an airshow is absolutely unacceptable. If airshows can’t be held safely, then better do not hold airshows.
Shoreham airshow has been held for over 26 years without anything remotely similar happening. The people involved in this high performance jet display flying are highly experienced display pilots, as is the one involved in this horrible crash. This was not a “stunt” or reckless behaviour, at least it does not look like it, but an accident.
If you saye:
As an aviator and occasional visitor of airshows I find it totally unacceptable that unsuspecting people who drive to the sea with their family on a saturday afternoon have to die a horrible death in a fireball for our pleasure.
then this would simply imply that any form of pleasure flying has to be stopped and banned. Period. If the risk that once in several decades an accident like this can happen is too large, then we have to ground any and all “pleasure” flying permanently. Which then would not exclude the exactly same thing happening to an “non pleasure” flight landing short or overshooting (as it very well might have not a week ago near Blackbushee and as it did when a 737 crashed on a highway near East Midlands a couple of years ago).
The fact is: As long as there is ONE airplane in the sky, the risk exists that it will crash and hit something valuable on the ground.
As far as I can recall, there have been extremely few accidents of this sort involving high performance planes on airshows which caused this sort of consequences. I recall Ramstein, I recall Farnborough in the 1950ties, I recall Le Bourget (TU144) and I recall Reno, where a Mustang crashed into a crowd and now this one. That is 4 accidents with collateral damage in the last decades. Is that an unacceptable risk?
In our densely populated area, airports are forcibly built in areas where getting to and from them involves flying over built up areas. If that risk is too high, we have to stop flying.
I have never worn a high-viz jacket on any airfield or airport in Germany
And that is an acceptable risk? Knowing how many people get killed or injured each year on the ramps around the world, I’d call the risk involved quite real. I do wear a yellow jacket whenever I am around airplanes and often enough when I go for a walk in dark streets where I live. And I fully stand behind the UK measure as I know why it was imposed. The guy killed at Manchester whose accident triggered the order to wear these jackets was a pilot I knew very well. He was smashed by a towing truck while doing the outside check of his airplane. Having worked on the ramp for over 20 years in the 1980ties until today if there was ever a reasonable thing to do it was to introduce the obligatory wearing of these high vis jackets.
It’s really funny. You get a highly visible but extremely rare occurrence and even in the aviation community there are calls for bans and prohibitions. So what should the normal Joe out there think? Flying is dangerous, so I don’t want airplanes flying over my head as they might fall down? Well, they might. As much as walking along or let alone across a normal street can be deadly. So ban cars as well? One friend of mine was killed by a bike. Ban those?
If the biz jet near Blackbushee had crashed into a crowd rather than a parking lot, would you have supported a move to close that airport and ban executive flying as it is obviously dangerous? And because that flight was done for the “pleasure” of those on board?
The way our society starts to look at these risks is more dangerous than the risks themselfs imho. As we can see it in aviation: each isolated incident brings a new overall rule which then causes new problems. As long as we chase the “vision zero”, we are not doing risk assessment or management but are giving in to emotions triggered by high visibility events. Had our regulators strictly followed that, we would never have gotten aviation to where it is today. Unfortunately, some regulators do think that way today. We moan and groan about it when the new “safety” rules hit us, but if it’s someone else then it’s ok?
Sorry, I am not buying.
Shoreham airshow has been held for over 26 years without anything remotely similar happening.
Hawker Hurricane – September, 2007?
The Hurricane was in a field and maybe hurt a sheep. It was actually in the field next door to this crash, though.
Whilst I wasn’t present at the airshow, I was watching it on live feed from Great Planes TV. I agree that flaps were extended at the start or the half Cuban, although I don’t know if they were still extended as the aircraft descended. I would have to watch the footage again to try and see if they are deployed. Given that watching events unfold live was harrowing enough, without actually being there, it’s not something I wish to do at this time.
Flaps were down the whole way. I saw it from where I was and also it’s visible in some of the photos.