Following the tragic events at Shoreham in August 2015, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) introduced immediate restrictions on the flying of vintage jet aircraft over land whilst the situation was being further reviewed. There was also a temporary total ban on flying any civilian-registered Hawker Hunter.
The restrictions were imposed immediately and detailed in Safety Notice SN–2015/003, issued on 25th August, the Tuesday following the accident.
The main restriction for aircraft other than the Hunter was that flying displays over land by vintage ex-military jet aircraft on the UK Register, and civilian foreign registered ex-military jets, was limited to flypasts. It could include a low energy turn, for example to enable the aircraft to fly back, but effectively banned ‘high energy’ aerobatics over land. It did not restrict the flying of jets over the sea but Flying Display Directors were obliged to make risk assessments taking into account, amongst other things, boats that may be near the flightpath. The full initial statement of the CAA is here and the associated Safety Notice is here.
Just ten days after the issue of the Safety Notice, the CAA announced the constitution of a 'challenge panel' of experts to guide the CAA's review of airshow safety. The range of issues the review would consider was detailed in Terms of Reference and included the competency and experience of pilots, fitness and skills required to perform aerobatics and the geography of the display area. In October 2015 there was an update from the CAA (CAP 1351) reporting on progress with their review.
In January 2016 the CAA confirmed that the restrictions on civilian Hawker Hunters specifically, and on displays over land by vintage ex-military jets generally, would remain in place. At the same time the CAA announced further measures designed to enhance safety at non-military airshows, resulting from the work of the safety review.
The new measures were contained in an "Action Report" (CAP1371) and covered requirements for permissions to hold a display; earlier notification to the CAA; training and checks for anyone responsible for overseeing air displays; the experience, skill and health of display pilots and the role of the Display Authorisation Examiners (DAEs) who oversee display pilots.
Their final report following the review, entitled "UK civil air display review: final report", known as CAR1400, was published in May 2016. It added another 13 'actions' that would have to be carried out by airshow organisers and others relating to the competency of pilots performing aerobatic manoeuvres in civil registered, ex-military jet aircraft; the distance between the display line and spectators and the height of the aircraft when 'high-energy manoeuvres' are being performed; limits of flying when the weather is not good, post-display reporting by Flying Display Directors and medical requirements for display pilots.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) look a the specific incident. They look at geography, the flying and the aircraft to establish the cause of the incident and can make recommendations, during the investigations and at the end, if they consider changes are necessary in order to reduce the chances of a recurrence. They do not themselves make regulations.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has a wide remit outside the airshow industry but in respect of airshows it makes the regulations and ensures their enforcement.
In respect of the Shoreham incident, the AAIB decide what went wrong and make recommendations. The CAA decide whether and how to implement those recommendations as well as any changes arising from their own review.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) had begun their investigation immediately after the crash and themselves issued a very early Special Bulletin S3/2015 with preliminary observations in September 2015, 13 days after the incident; a further bulletin in December 2015 concerning ejection seat safety and the maintenance of ex-military jet aircraft and another Special Bulletin (S3.2016) in March 2016 with associated safety recommendations, including minimum distances between the aircraft and the crowd.
Regulations relating to air displays are contained in a document entitled "Flying displays and special events: A guide to safety and administrative arrangements", known as CAP 403. Based on their own review and learning from bulletins issued by the AAIB, CAP 403 was amended five times (March, April, May and June 2016 and February 2017), the changes dealing between them with a range of new or enhanced requirements including risk assessment; fitness assessment for display pilots and Flying Display Directors, including the introduction of an accreditation scheme; show planning and site assessment; post event feedback and safety breach reporting; reporting latent hazards within aircraft and how far apart light aircraft and helicopters must fly.
Most of the changes since August 2015 have involved additional responsibilities and workload for organisers and Flying Display Directors. The change that was most obvious to spectators was an increase in the standard distance between the crowd and most aircraft during displays.
The CAA have said that they will further review the Regulations following the publication of the final report of the AAIB on the Shoreham incident. That detailed and comprehensive report was published on 3rd March 2017.
The final report of the AAIB does not apportion blame. However, it does say that the aircraft appeared to be working properly but that pilot entered the manoeuvre too low and too slow; that he appeared not to know the height of the aircraft at the top of the loop and that he did not take a possible escape action when things went wrong. It says that this may have been because he did not, or possibly could not, read the altimeter, or that he misread it, or that he didn't remember the correct height for that kind of aircraft.
Although not said to be a cause of the crash, there is also some concern about the way some aircraft parts were stored and the certification of their airworthiness.
The report mentions other matters that it considers need clarification. It says there was confusion about the responsibility for safety at the airshow. The CAA had agreed the arrangements, but that lead to uncertainty about whether the CAA therefore assumed responsibility for the safety of those plans or whether the organisers retained that duty.
The AAIB considers that the area on the ground below which the aerobatics take place should be more carefully defined. Hitherto there has been a flight path with margins either side, which have been inaccessible to spectators. It is likely that, following the report, the CAA may redefine and enlarge the 'sterile' area beneath which aerobatics can take place.
The Military Aviation Authority and the Health and Safety Executive are themselves conducting reviews which may also contribute to changes in the way british airshows are delivered.
Looks at the fees charged to pilots and airshow organisers and how those fees have increased since 2015.
This is a journalistic summary of our understanding of matters arising from the August 22nd incident. We hope and believe it is accurate but it is not intended as an authoritative statement. Clicking on any blue text will take you to source documents.
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