A PILOT who crashed at the Shoreham Airshow today has been described by colleagues as a ‘gifted display pilot’.
Andy Hill was flying a Hunter Hawker during a display at around 1.20pm when it crashed into the ground into cars on the A27.
Seven are confirmed dead in the incident, with one further person suffering life-threatening injuries and 14 walking wounded.
Pilot David Wildridge, who had flown with the Tiger Nine display earlier today said: “Andy Hill was a British Airways captain and very well thought of,” he said.
“He is a highly experienced pilot, well-known and well-loved. He is highly professional and it is totally unusual for this to happen.”
“He was a Harrier pilot in the air force. They are the top RAF pilots - the best of the best.”
“It is difficult to make any comment on the crash which would be meaningful until the investigation is complete. His wife was also a British Airways captain and our thoughts are with the family. It was just very sad when it happened.”
Mr Wildridge flew Hunters himself in the RAF.
He said: “It is very emotional for us. The Hunters have a characteristic sound. When everything is right you hear it and that is what we heard as it made its first pass above the airfield.”
Tiger Nine commentator Tim Emrys-Roberts said: “Andy has displayed in many aircraft including the RV80 propeller aircraft.”
He described the fireballs witnessed after the crash and explained it was likely this was due to the foam being used to control the blaze.
“In a fuel fire it is sprayed with foam which puts a block up and stops it spreading.”
Flying is currently suspended and visitors are only able to leave the event on foot.
The A27 remains closed in both directions.
A Sussex Police spokesman said: “Police are advising all drivers to avoid the A27 in the Shoreham area for rest of today, Saturday (22 August)) after a an aircraft has crashed.
“At about 1.20pm the aircraft hit several cars on the A27 just to the north of Shoreham Airport, where an air display is taking place. The aircraft ended up in a bush. There have been several casualties but we have no further information on these at the moment.
“The A27 has been closed in both directions and drivers are asked to avoid the area until further notice.
“Further information will be released as soon as possible.”