Shoreham air crash jet ‘was flying better than it had ever flown’

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A Hawker Hunter aircraft was “flying better than it had ever flown” in the months before it crashed at Shoreham Air Show and killed 11 people, a court has heard.

The 1950s fighter jet plunged to the ground and exploded after pilot Andrew Hill attempted a loop-the-loop on August 22 2015.

Hill is on trial at the Old Bailey accused of manslaughter.

Fran Renouf, deputy chief engineer at Essex-based Weald Aviation, told jurors the aircraft had been in “very good” condition and had a lot of maintenance.

He said: “It was reported it was flying better than it had ever flown and there were really no problems with the aircraft at all.

“We can only judge it by what we see on the ground but reports we had back from the air crew was that it was a good aircraft to fly.”

Its last annual inspection was in February 2015, the court heard.

Senior engineer Mark Jenkins said in a statement he had been “absolutely devastated”.

He said during the preparation on the day Hill had been his “normal” self.

“There was nothing that would cause me concern,” Mr Jenkins said.

He described Hill as an “absolute gentleman” and “safety conscious”, adding: “He is always professional and always does things by the book. He never cuts corners. I trust him completely.”

Engineer Charlie Selwyn carried out pre-flight checks in the Hawker jet the day before the air show.

He told jurors how he had worked his way up from an apprenticeship at Weald Aviation.

Every time he did a pre-flight check, he would work through a list of checks using a manual , he said.

He told jurors: “I work through the whole list. The first thing I normally do is deal with the parachute because when it is deployed it’s left in a mess.

“I check the tyres, check the pressures, check for damage, just a good look over to check everything is all right.”

Mr Selwyn said if he had noticed any problems he would have reported it to the chief engineer to inspect.

Chief engineer David Horsefield said in a statement the Hawker first came to Weald Aviation in July 2012.

The plane was owned by Essex-based businessman Graham Peacock, of Canfield Hunter Ltd.

Hill, 54, of Sandon, Buntingford, Hertfordshire, denies 11 charges of manslaughter by gross negligence.

The trial continues.

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