Authorities Search for Answers in Hawker Hunter Crash

Jet appeared in good mechanical condition.

Hawker Hunter

Hawker Hunter

Hawker Hunter in 2013
(Photo: Alan Wilson via Creative Commons)

The UK's Air Accident Investigation Branch has issued its initial report on the tragic accident in which a Hawker Hunter T7 crashed during a demonstration flight at an airshow at the Shoreham Airport. The report confirmed that 11 people on the ground died as a result of the crash while the pilot surprisingly survived, albeit with serious injuries.

The Hunter, which was of 1959 vintage, appeared to have been in good mechanical condition prior to the accident. The initial investigation concluded that all of the required maintenance checks had been completed and in-cockpit video clips and several videos shot from the ground showed that the airplane "appeared to be responding to the pilot's control inputs."

The 51-year-old pilot had flown his own "light aircraft" to the North Weald Airfield in Essex to pick up the Hunter. He then flew it to Shoreham for the aerial display flight. Enroute, the pilot flew inverted at times. "This may have been to check that there were no loose articles in the cockpit before his display," the report said.

After several maneuvers, the pilot pitched up into a turning, loop-like maneuver in which the airplane was almost fully inverted at the apex more than 2,500 feet AGL. However, during the descent, the airplane "did not achieve level flight" and instead impacted the A27 freeway in a nose high attitude, the report said.

The pilot was thrown from the airplane, but the AAIB investigators are unsure as to whether he had initiated an ejection or if the impact threw the pilot's seat out of the wreckage. The airplane itself broke into four pieces.

The pilot had more than 14,000 hours of flight time and has flown aerial displays in several types of aircraft. He was fully qualified, type rated and current in the Hunter. The report said he had just over 40 hours in type since 2011, 9.7 of which were in the past 90 days.

The AAIB investigation is now delving deeper into the maintenance records, operation of the aircraft and organization of the event.

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