Pilot Andy Hill, who flew the Hawker Hunter that crashed during the Shoreham air display in 2015 killing eleven people on the ground, has been judged not guilty of manslaughter by a jury.
My feelings on this are irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, but I am glad he was not convicted of the criminal offence of manslaughter by gross negligence.
I believe he was careless in his conduct of the display, having made a series of misjudgements leading up to the fatal manoeuvre, some of which must have been made consciously. His principle sin, shared by many pilots who have crashed during air displays, was to think he could push his luck just beyond the guidelines and get away with it. He has learned the the hard way that the guidelines are set where they are for good reason. Unfortunately his lesson was fatal for eleven other souls.
Any professional pilot knows that Andy Hill has probably died a thousand deaths since the accident, and he will live to die a thousand more.
Meanwhile the air display business in particular, and British aviation in general, have had cause to do some deep soul-searching. As a result of being put under the Air Accident Investigation Branch’s microscope, air displays will be different now, mostly by virtue of sticking to the rules that already existed instead of treating them just as guidance.
Some displays, like the Farnborough Air Show, with its airfield today surrounded closely by residential and industrial development, are already much more pedestrian than they used to be.
In the future, the most exciting air displays will be at rural aerodromes, or coastal displays where the action takes place over the sea and the audience watches from the beach front.
Has justice been done? Certainly change has already been the result of this intense scrutiny of the UK’s air show culture.