Monday, January 25, 2016

New medical checks for display pilots after Shoreham air crash: Tougher risk assessments for air shows could see some events cancelled this summer, the Civil Aviation Authority says

Air display pilots will have to tell doctors during medical checks if they perform demanding aerobatics, under new rules to tighten safety after the Shoreham air crash.

Organizers will also have to complete stricter risk assessments that could see some shows near railways and busy roads cancelled, according to a new report by the Civil Aviation Authority.

A 41-page CAA action report after Britain’s worst air show crash in more than 60 years has unveiled a list of new safety measures for air show organizers and their pilots.

Measures after the August 22 crash that killed 11 include temporarily keeping a ban on vintage military jets performing aerobatics at air shows.

Tony Rapson, head of general aviation, said the CAA had looked at “every aspect of civil air display safety” after the crash.

He said: “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.”

Under the news rules, organizers will have to reduce the risks to nearby roads, congested areas and infrastructure such as railways. Mr. Rapson said the new rules could mean organisers decide to cancel their shows.

He said: “Inevitably there’s a potential that some organizers will choose not to have shows this year.

“With the enhanced risk assessment there could be a number of locations where they cannot mitigate the risks. Safety has to be our priority.”

Shoreham has already decided it will not hold a show this year, out of respect for the victims.

The CAA said it would enhance requirements for the "skill and health of display pilots". Changes will include new medicals for pilots, with specialist doctors taking into account the physical demands of the aerobatics they are performing.

A new medical certification for display pilots will be “based on the type of aircraft being flown, the maneuvers the pilot intends to fly in displays and the risks consequent on these two factors”.

The new scheme will focus on “the increased physiological strain associated with flying under high levels of g-force, particularly during aerobatic maneuvers.”

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) is still looking at what caused a 1950s era Hawker Hunter flown by display pilot Andy Hill to plough into the A27. An interim report has found the plane had expired ejector seat parts and an out-of-date technical manual. The CAA said the ban on aerobatics by vintage jets put in place immediately after the crash would remain until the AAIB findings.

Thousands of people had gathered at Shoreham Airshow to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain when the 1950s Hawker Hunter crashed into a busy bypass, hitting at least four cars – including a wedding limousine.

Mr Hill, a 51-year-old former RAF officer, had been performing a loop when he failed to pull up in time and smashed into the A27 in a fireball of burning fuel and wreckage.

He miraculously survived the crash and was dragged from the burning plane.

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