Former SA pilot tells of shock at Shoreham jet crash

2015-08-23 17:25
(Daniel Leal-Olivas, AP)

(Daniel Leal-Olivas, AP)

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Johannesburg - A former South African pilot told News24 of the growing concern of the crowd ahead of a catastrophic failed loop at the Shoreham Air Show on Saturday.

Sean Bruton, who was part of a record breaking mass flight of 106 planes a few weeks ago, said he was so shocked by what he saw, that he cancelled plans to go flying on Sunday.

"After this happened, the crowd were shocked and some people [were] in tears," he said by e-mail.

"Some pilots just walked away into the hangar and tent holding their heads in despair, even the odd few had a cry..."

A day of watching classics and "warbirds" in action, changed to endless sirens of emergency vehicles from all directions, he said after pilot Andy Hill's Hawker Hunter crashed on a dual carriageway.

"I shortly afterwards decided to go home as this brought back many memories [of] friends lost."

He said it was the second air show crash of Saturday and he and his aviator friends spent Sunday wondering whether there would be a third.

Before the Shoreham tragedy, which left at least seven people dead after the jet crashed, and the pilot fighting for his life, another plane had crashed at a show on the Isle of Wight during a World War II commemoration.

"I have just seen the third crash has happened in Switzerland. Pilot killed. What a terrible weekend!!" he wrote, after two planes collided at an air show.

"This has been truly a sad day... I was scheduled to fly later today [Sunday], but decided to stay on the ground."

He recalled how he and others at the airfield had been expressing concern about rising temperatures and how this would affect the aircraft's manoeuvres.

The temperature had risen from 17°C to a hot summer 29°C, which would have changed the density altitude on the ground, he explained.

The humidity and the reduction of air quality was worrying the pilots in the group.

"The aircraft came in for a low level run then pulled up."

Bruton said somebody commented that the top of the loop curve was shallow and the aircraft seemed to be slower than normal.

It looked as though the nose dropped steeply, and one wing was dropped, making the loop descent not on the same line.

Later the aircraft managed a nose-up position, but the aircraft was still descending, with those in the know recognising a "drag stall state".

"I believe that the pilot is still alive because he did not hit the ground nose first - the nose was up, the rear belly part [hitting] the ground first.

He did not know any of those killed. But in church on Sunday morning, a minute's silence was held for those who died.

Bruton and his son, also Sean, were part of a world record attempt to launch the most planes from a single airfield in one hour in Devon, earlier in August. The two, who were originally from Centurion, flew a Pegasus AX3 Cyclone.

The mass flight world record attempt was in aid of Make a Wish Foundation and bettered the previous record of 87 set in the Netherlands in 2004.

The BBC reported earlier that two of the victims have been named as Matt Jones, 24, and Worthing United footballer Matthew Grimstone, 23. According to photographs of the crash site, a limousine on its way to a wedding was also struck by the jet.

Read more on:    uk  |  air crashes

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