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Shoreham air crash trial: Test pilot ‘made errors’ during re-enactment

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Sussex Police/CPS

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Andrew Hill’s Hawker Hunter jet was too low when he performed a loop, the court has heard

An elite RAF test pilot made errors during tests to replicate part of the aerobatic manoeuvre that ended in the Shoreham air crash, a court has heard.

Dave Southwood said he ended up having to complete a loop similar to the one Andrew Hill tried unsuccessfully to do, even though he had not intended to.

He told the Old Bailey: “Every pilot makes errors every time we go flying. It depends on the magnitude.”

Mr Hill, 54, denies 11 counts of manslaughter.

His Hawker Hunter crashed on the A27, killing 11 men, after failing to complete an aerobatic manoeuvre at the Shoreham air show.

The court heard his aircraft was too low when he carried out the loop.

But under cross-examination from defence barrister Karim Khalil QC, Mr Southwood said he too had made mistakes during his attempts to replicate parts of Mr Hill’s aerobatics during the accident investigation.

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Leon Neal/Getty Images

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Andrew Hill denies 11 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence

He said he had already flown two “sorties” without incident, trying to establish a safe “gate height” at which the loop could be carried out and to identify escape manoeuvres.

But on the third, Mr Southwood – described by Mr Khalil as “top of the top” test-pilot trainers – initially forgot to transmit his altitude and air-speed data, which were required as part of the test.

Then on another test manoeuvre, he ended up performing the full loop that Mr Hill had been attempting rather than pulling out at the top – ending up 1,000ft lower than he had calculated to be a safe height, the court heard.

He told the jury that time he had not intended to transmit the flight data but had done so erroneously.

Mr Southwood said once he had released the transmit button and realised what had happened, he had “only one” option – to complete the loop.

He said a display pilot would not be required to perform the sort of sequence of repeat manoeuvres that he had done for test purposes.

Mr Hill, of Sandon in Hertfordshire, denies 11 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.

The trial continues.

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