Yet again, an old warbird is allowed to do an absurdly dangerous ‘trick’ low to the ground. This time, during the Shoreham Airshow in Sussex, the Hawker Hunter was making a low, high-speed pass, then initiated a full loop, but ran out of altitude before the end of the loop. The impact area was along a busy road (A27) near the airport, and four cars were reportedly hit. Seven civilians died. The pilot is said to have survived.
This is exactly the scenario for the F86 crash at Jeffco Airport near Denver, in 1997. I was working in the tower that day, and it was hands-down the worst experience in my FAA ATC career.
“It was a few days later that I got a phone call from some controller on the East Coast. It was her job to assist in a stress debriefing. Via phone. She was supposed to help mend the psychological damages, help make sure we can talk and process and move on. I talked. I sort of processed. And I think, yeah, I moved on. But what I moved on to was a realization that there is something wrong with my employer, the FAA. At that time, in my heart, I could feel that something about FAA was broken. We were failing. We not only could do better, we had to do better.”
Jeffco was almost 20-years ago, but traces of it remain online. A Google search may also produce links to a 1951 airshow crash east of Denver. Similar scenario, with the pilot making a low maneuver, losing control and his life while also killing 13 children and 6 adults.
We may have been too cocky and too stupid way back then in 1951, but have we learned anything since?
What’s with these agencies supposedly regulating aviation safety? Why do they allow this type of airshow stunt, when even the empirical evidence proves the risk is too high?