Jet in Shoreham tragedy flew in Shannon and Foynes air shows

Colm Ward

Reporter:

Colm Ward

The Hawker Hunter jet pictured at the air show in Shannon in July
The plane that crashed during an air show in the UK at the weekend, leaving 11 people dead and the pilot fighting for his life, featured in two air shows in the Limerick area just last month.

The plane that crashed during an air show in the UK at the weekend, leaving 11 people dead and the pilot fighting for his life, featured in two air shows in the Limerick area just last month.

The Hawker Hunter jet went out of control and smashed into a motorway after a manoeuvre went wrong at the Shoreham air show on Saturday.

It was the same plane that had performed in front of thousands of spectators at air shows in Shannon and Foynes on subsequent weekends in July. Andy Hill, the pilot who was seriously injured in Saturday’s crash had flown the jet in Shannon.

The organiser of the Foynes air show, Margaret O’Shaughnessy, said her thoughts and prayers were with Mr Hill and the families of those killed and injured in the tragic accident.

“It is very sad,” she said, adding that she had been in touch with Mr Hill by email in the run-up to the Foynes air show.

It is understood that his colleague Chris Heames was piloting the plane during the air show in Foynes.

However, due to the cloud cover in Foynes on the day, he did not perform the loop-the-loop manoeuvre which resulted in Saturday’s crash.

Ms O’Shaughnessy, who was in the United States as part of a tourism delegation from Limerick when news of the accident emerged, said they were shocked by what happened. She pointed out that there were “very strict regulations” governing air shows which were aimed at preventing such tragedies.

“The safety of all the participants and the audience is the top priority,” she added.

Mr Hill, a highly experienced former RAF pilot who also flew Airbuses for British Airways, survived the crash but sustained critical injuries and was placed in a medically induced coma.

He is understood to be a friend of Gerry Humphreys, the Limerick pilot who was director of the Foynes Air Show.

A statement issued by Sussex Police on behalf of the family said: “Following the tragic events at the Shoreham Air Show on Saturday, the pilot’s family are devastated and deeply saddened for the loss of life, and they send their prayers and heartfelt condolences to the families of all those affected at this difficult time.”

The aircraft itself was originally built in the early 1950s for the Royal Air Force.

It was later used for training pilots before being transferred to civilian ownership in 1997. Since then, it has featured regularly on the European air show circuit.

Meanwhile, the preliminary report on the accident that led to the death of pilot Howard Cox as he was making his way to perform in Foynes, was released this week.

Mr Cox was flying from Waterford to Shannon on July 25 when his light aircraft crashed into a field. He had been due to fly his BD-5 mini-jet - the model which featured in the James Bond movie Octopussy - in Foynes the next day. Mr Humphreys, who had been flying behind Mr Cox at the time, reported seeing smoke in the field before confirming there had been a crash.