I had no inkling when I met Sev by the i360 to cycle to the Shoreham air show that it would be front-page news tomorrow and at the top of all the news bulletins! It was a lovely day, people were sunbathing on the beaches by Shoreham harbour. We crossed the lock gates and headed into suburbia to cut the corner and avoid the main roads. As we passed the allotments, I could see a jet doing aerobatics, straight ahead. I thought at first it was the Sea Vixen, as it was side on and that was listed to appear just before the Vulcan at 14.05. The aircraft climbed vertically then looped and headed straight for the ground. We didn't see it recover, instead a double ball of black smoke appeared. No sound. Sev switched on his Go-Pro. We stopped to talk to two other cyclists who told us what they saw and we stood for a moment and watched the black cloud with trepidation.
We then carried on towards the toll bridge - Sev headed off to Worthing - and some bikers confirmed that it was a Hawker Hunter T7 that had crashed. I took this photo (above), somewhat after the event. We saw the Sea Vixen fly home, and in the distance the Vulcan circling. It did just one fly past and was gone. People started to realise that that was it, and began to drift off.
The A27 bridge was gridlocked and the emergency vehicles had trouble getting through. On Facebook they were saying that people had died, including two cyclists. The pilot Andy Hill survived! It'll be a while before we know for sure how many and who. Later, back home, I discovered that it had crashed onto the west-bound carriageway of the A27 near the traffic lights, outside what used to be the Sussex Pad pub, now part of Lancing College.
It is apparently the worst air show disaster since 1952, at Farnborough, when a DH110 crashed into the crowd. There is plenty of footage of the Shoreham crash on the web, google it. Sunday's display was cancelled.
A few years ago, Simeon, Sue, me and others had sat on the verge outside that former pub, but with no clear view of the airfield, and planes flying low right overhead, I decided it was a bit too close for comfort! I preferred standing near the tollbridge.
Strangely enough, I also witnessed the Hurricane crash in 2007, which came down at a spot just behind where the Hunter crashed!
from the archives
1 week ago