The Avro Vulcan, a majestic big old iron bird, sublime,
was to do a flyby for just one memorable last time.
Maybe with a jet fighter or a Spitfire on each wing, who knew?…
Unthinkable to miss it… almost a crime.
Thousands turned up every year, always a great day out -
but this year would be special, there'd be no doubt.
The last flight of such a legendary plane made it essential…
So, after the flyers’ break for lunch, the crowd filled out.
The entry fee to occupy the field was heinous. 25 quid!
That was for adults - and a fiver for each kid.
So, many more than those that paid, sat happily outside pubs.
Others found shelter in the perimeter’s trees and... kinda hid.
Now, to see a Vulcan fly anytime, anywhere, was magic…
She was a Leviathan of the Cold War,
that held players in the planet’s power games in awe.
And this would be her last time doing the rounds on the air show circuit -
Seeing this locally was hard to ignore.
Mark (a nephew) was a window cleaner by trade.
A regular, down to earth, happy go lucky guy.
…Saturday comes and the kids all voted "McDonalds"…
“A Happy Meal!” they’d cry.
He said that was fine - they’d all go after he’d nipped over
to the airshow to watch the Vulcan fly.
No idea whatsoever, of course, that just by going to Shoreham
just 5 miles away, for half an hour or so… that he might die.
He told his fiancé he’d only be an hour or so…
be back in time to take the kids for a burger and, "NO!"...
He wouldn’t stay. He was the only one in the family
who was bothered anyway…so he wouldn’t ****** up their day.
So, in haste, because apparently Chicken Nuggets & Fries
was much better for the kids than a load of old planes,
he cranked the best out of his bike along the 27 and,
once at the lights by the Sussex Pad,
he pulled over to the kerb to watch from the bushes.
Good view? Well not bad!
Andy Hill was a flyer of many years. His weekday job,
flying for BA.Taking holiday makers, business folk, transatlantic in Seven Four Sevens...
A flight deck maestro, soaring up, just under the heavens.
He’d done Shoreham loads of times… it was exciting, exhilarating... almost sport, his game!
He was off the hook, became an ace. It gave him that 15 minutes of fame!
Free to thrill - a hero! Standing out from the crowd with every daring step. His aim!
He wasn’t just a petrol head… this bloke had aviation fuel in his blood.
Adrenalin on tick-over. Nought to 60 in 2.7 seconds with 22,000 Horsepower under the hood.
He left Epping full of fuel, just 90 miles away, so in two ticks he was with us, fully loaded and, the weather? It was good.
First up after lunch at half past one… he streaked across the crowded field.
Over and out and up, up, up… Little did the spectators know that Andy had forgotten he was flying a Hunter…
He thought it was last year’s aborted routine in a Jet Provost… The one they'd stopped part way through being, too risky.
"He’s not gonna make it… I can’t look!" There was a hush… a nanosecond’s silence and then the rush,
the whoomph that said it all… that hush! The ground shook!
And the eleven - plus others injured - went up in Andy Hill’s very own fireball!
No, of course, Mark wasn’t the only one to die that day.
Ten other ‘innocents’ left us in pretty much the same way…
Maurice, Dylan, Tony, Matthew, Matt, Graham, Mark R, Daniele, Richard & Jacob.
Mark T, our Mark, had the distinction of having two funerals, not just the one…
More remains were discovered, analysed and found to be his!
Even after he’d…already well... ‘gone’.
The injustice that eleven spectators or just passers by should die
when the survivor, the off target driver, who sped too low from the sky, should, after a suitable pause in this ghoulish game, be exonerated and not take any blame.
Well it’s all sort of things… It's ridiculous, pathetic, obtuse, a joke… who do they think we are?
But the great and the good deliberated, scratched their heads and worked hard to make everything look ’right’…
Tolerance for the bereaved to grieve, platitudes, condescending attitudes, a memorial service.
Thanks - genuinely - to the emergency services… Not just a little buck-passing… But the public often judged them. Arsing about - to cover their corporate backside.
They can’t insult me (or us)… intelligent people have tried…
Andy Hill was judged to be not guilty of 11 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.
But he claimed he blacked out in the air, having experienced ‘cognitive impairment’ brought on by hypoxia … possibly due to the effects of G-force…. Of course!
The 11 were either hit by the plane or roasted in a fireball caused when the jet flew too low and too slow. But if it wasn’t Andy’s fault then whose was it?
Surely this can’t be the end of this travesty of justice!!
BUT, there IS a new memorial to the dead. And, trust this...it’s a good one too… The best that money can buy - and that anyone can do.
But there's is also a very bitter taste, still today…
that somehow... just won’t go away!
This is a bit of a saga... But I think it's worth it...On August 22nd 2015 there was a disaster at Shoreham Air Show, West Sussex... on the south coast of England and eleven people died. A loop the loop, too low and too slow. The pilot lived and recovered from his injuries and was found not guilty of eleven counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.