New safety rules hold no fears for Sunderland Airshow

The 2015 Sunderland International Air Show.
The 2015 Sunderland International Air Show.
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Tough new safety regulations introduced in the wake of the Shoreham disaster are already in place for the Sunderland International Airshow.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) yesterday announced a raft of measures, including enhancing the experience, skill and health that display pilots must demonstrate before being allowed in the air.

Crowds at last year's Sunderland International Airshow.

Crowds at last year's Sunderland International Airshow.

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

However, organisers of the Sunderland International Airshow don’t envisage the new rules having a “significant effect” on displays planned for this year’s event.

Eleven people were killed when a Hawker Hunter jet crashed on to the A27 in West Sussex during the Shoreham air show on August 22 2015.

Steps taken in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy – such as grounding all Hawker Hunter aircraft and banning ex-military jets from performing aerobatics over land – remain in place until the conclusion of an air accident report into what caused the crash.

The CAA’s head of general aviation, Tony Rapson, said: “After the tragic accident at Shoreham air show last summer, we began a thorough review, examining every aspect of civil air display safety.

“Today we’re announcing a series of measures that will enhance the safety of UK air shows. The restrictions we introduced immediately after the Shoreham accident remain in place.

“In 2016, no air show will go ahead without being subject to an enhanced risk assessment, and having to comply with tighter requirements for training, oversight and notification.”

The CAA is set to publish a comprehensive review into civil air displays “in early 2016” in a bid to ensure the events meet the “very highest safety standards”.

Sue Stanhope, director of Sunderland International Airshow, said: “Safety of both the audience and the display teams is always of paramount importance at Sunderland International Airshow.

“Due to the location of our airshow these new rules should not have a significant effect on the displays that visitors see over the weekend of 22-24 July.

“The arrangements that we currently have in place are already likely to reach the revised CAA standards.

“We will as a matter of course take a close look at the implications of any changes and ensure that we continue to not only comply with, but exceed the minimum safety standards required.”

This year’s Shoreham air show has been cancelled out of respect for those affected by last year’s disaster.

The pilot of the Hawker Hunter, Andrew Hill, 51, from Hertfordshire, was voluntarily interviewed under caution by police in connection with the accident.

He was thrown clear from the 1955 fighter-bomber and suffered life-threatening injuries but was discharged from hospital in September.

Former RAF pilot Jim Morris, who is a specialist aviation lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing several people affected by the crash, expressed his “deep regret” that the tightened safety measures had not been brought in before Shoreham.

“We welcome the CAA’s decision to introduce enhanced safety standards,” he said.

“But it is a matter of deep regret that it has taken such a terrible event before the CAA has decided to introduce these more stringent safety requirements.”

Mr Morris added that it will not be clear if the enhancements could have prevented the disaster until all of its causes are known.