The Shoreham Air Disaster
When the editor, Miles Piper of the National Rust called me my initial reaction was he wanted a piece on the Championships in China. I was ready to excoriate Justin Gatlin a convicted drug cheat who has been twice suspended and declare my delight that Usain Bolt beat him. In fact the editor wanted something more local. He wanted something on the Shoreham Air Disaster. I confessed I was no aviation expert and that our travel correspondent Nancy Bright Thompson might be a better option. Miles explained that at the Rust roles and opinions are regularly swapped and he would like me to write on the coverage of the disaster.
On Monday I take three papers : the local Brighton newspaper The Argus, the Telegraph and the Times for their sports supplements. So I diligently read all three on the air disaster. The Argus and Telegraph went for human interest : the two Worthing footballers, Grimstone and Shilt, who lost their young lives as well as Matt Jones the personal trainer, all unlucky enough to be on the A27. I found the Times reporting the most comprehensive. I was interested in how this dreadful disaster occurred. They had a aviator specialising in acrobatics who explained two things that are fundamental here: firstly, it’s an air show so the audience expect stunts and secondly, it’s crucial to leave space between the plane and ground to accomplish a loop, not in itself a difficult manoeuvre. By flying so low the pilot Hill left no margin. These air shows attract large audiences and they want to get up close and personal to the plane flight, not watch a dot at sea. It’s not as if such disasters occur regulatory as the last such disaster was at Farnborugh over 60 years ago. The forensic investigation will take weeks and the pilot is in coma and may not get out of it, so its possible we may never find the answer but I praise the Times for at least trying their best to discover it.