Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Crackdown on Airshow Safety

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Crackdown on Airshow Safety

Article excerpt

Byline: Barbara Hodgson Reporter barbara.hodgson@ncjmedia.co.uk

AIRSHOWS cannot take place this year without tightening up on safety, it has been decided in the wake of the Shoreham disaster which killed 11 people.

In a ruling which will impact on popular events across the UK, including the North East, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has imposed further stringent regulations intended to ensure display pilots have the necessary experience, skill and health before they take to the air.

The regulator has also toughened the safety checks that must be passed before organisers can receive permission to hold an event.

Tony Rapson, the CAA's head of general aviation, said: "In 2016, no airshow will go ahead without being subject to an enhanced risk assessment and having to comply with tighter requirements."

The newly-announced measures will have to be considered by the hugely popular Sunderland International Airshow as well as Durham's planned SkyLive, re-arranged from last year.

They come after months of careful consideration following last August's tragedy when pilot Andy Hill crashed his 1955 Hawker Hunter jet during a stunt at Shoreham Airshow in West Sussex.

Thousands of spectators watched in horror as the plane hit at least four cars on the A2, leaving 11 dead.

Mr Hill, described as a "top bloke" by Tyneside display pilot Neil McCarthy who knows him well, was thrown clear and survived life-threatening injuries. He was discharged from hospital in September and the cause of the crash is still being investigated.

Mr McCarthy from Seaton Burn, who runs the Flight Simulator Centre in Newcastle and has flown a Hawker Hunter himself in the past, said his friend was "a very professional and experienced pilot".

Calls for a safety crackdown at airshows came in the immediate aftermath of the crash. County Durham MP Grahame Morris suggested restricting displays to areas over water - as with the annual Sunderland International Airshow - would be "common sense" and could save lives.

The Labour MP for Easington said a move away from busy roads and heavily-populated areas would immediately cut risk of casualties in any disaster and added: "We are an island nation. …

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