In 1952 I attended, along with more than 100,000 others, the Farnborough Airshow when John Derry’s DH 110 broke up mid-air while flying directly at the crowd.
The pieces of his aeroplane fell mainly on the airfield but the two engines travelled on into the packed crowd, killing 37 and injuring many others.
It was after this that it was ruled that display aircraft should fly parallel to spectators, not at right angles. The pilot at Shoreham was doing this and not flying over them.
When a pilot loses control of his aircraft it is not possible to predict where, and how far, it will travel.
The risk is always there. At Farnborough the DH 110 had just broken the sound barrier with a sonic “boom”, the first time at an air show. Many in the crowd associated it with the crash.
The display had to continue, and Neville Duke in a Hawker Hunter took off and produced another boom, to show that flying at these great speeds was safe.
However, the crash, followed by an awful silence together with two loud bangs, produced an emotional level that reduced many to tears.
The horror at Shoreham produced a similar trauma in some of the spectators.
East Forth Street