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Air Shows Must Balance Entertainment Against Public Safety

Leading lawyer who represents victims and their families in rail crashes and plane disasters comments on issues arising from Saturday’s air crash at Shoreham

“The events around the plane crash of the Hawker Hunter at the Shoreham Air Show on Saturday will have been of unimaginable horror for all involved. My heart goes out to those connected to the disaster and their families,” says Des Collins, leading transport lawyer and Senior Partner of Collins Solicitors.

“But this is not the first major accident to happen at an air show in the UK, or elsewhere, and it is time for further, robust review of the rules relating to the location and content of air shows, with particular emphasis on where the public is in relation to these flights, whether in the crowd attending the event, in houses close to the event or driving on nearby roads.”

“There is, of course, something magical about seeing old planes taking to the skies as they did in their hey-day, but not at any price. It is worth remembering that most planes are not – and rarely were – built for stunt flights. Event organisers need to think through very carefully what happens if there is a loss of control, the pilot blacks out, there is a malfunction and so on.”

In 2007, Des Collins successfully represented the widow of a trainee pilot in which both he and his instructor lost control on landing a jet at Duxford airfield. The trainee pilot lost his life in a failed ejection manoeuvre. The plane went on to cross the M11 on a Sunday morning, ending up on the central reservation but fortunately without any further fatalities. Des Collins adds: “The case had implications both for recreational and show flights; but it didn’t fire the public’s interest and press scrutiny in the same way that the events at Shoreham and Carfest sadly have in August 2015.”

Des Collins is available for further commentary in relation to these and related issues and can be contacted either on 01923 223 324 (office) or
07831 522 540 (mobile) or by emailing him dcollins@collinslaw.co.uk