Ministry of Defensiveness - culture of denial over Chinook software flaws

This is an excerpt from an editorial in The Times on the blaming of two pilots for the crash of Chinook ZD576 on the Mull of Kintyre in June 1994.

It says, in essence, that the MoD would rather perpetuate an injustice than concede it could have been wrong all along.

From The Times:

“The Ministry of Defence, by refusing to reconsider its verdict that the 1994 helicopter crash which killed 29 people was caused by “gross negligence” by the pilots, is risking its credibility just to save face…

“The MoD’s position relied on the assumption that technical failures in the Chinook’s software system could not explain such a disastrous degree of error. But that possibility can no longer be ruled out.

“Before the crash, several internal MoD documents raised significant alarms about the Chinook’s engine control computer software, describing it as positively dangerous.


“One memo, written nine months before thecrash by a senior engineering officer, argued that “deficiencies” inthe software meant that the pilot’s control of the engines could not beassured. Another, written the day before the crash, stated it wasimperative that the RAF should cease operations [of the Chinook Mk2 because of the threat to safety of Fadec problems].

“None of this,it must be said, conclusively proves that the crash must have beencaused by computer error. Human negligence remains a possibility. Infact, given the catastrophic nature of the crash, it is impossible thatanyone will ever know for sure what caused the disaster.

“But growingevidence that the MoD was concerned about the Chinook’s safety softwaredoes clearly demonstrate an inescapable degree of uncertainty — morethan enough uncertainty to justify reversing the guilty verdict imposedon the two pilots.

“So why is the MoD so reluctant to change itsposition? In the phrase of Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who was DefenceSecretary in 1994, it seems to be a case of bureaucratic stubbornness.

“Continuing to blame the pilots, in fact, is starting to look likesomething more serious than just a mistake. It suggests a worryingculture of denial.”

Links:

Leader in full – The Times Online

‘Never let a crisis go to waste’. Is a reopening of the Chinook Inquiry such anopportunity? Systemic leadership

Is the MoD on our side? – Munguin’s Republic

Chinook computer flaws – former ministers speak out  – ComputerWeekly.com

Chinook Mk2: we publish new evidence of computer problems – IT Projects Blog

Chinook computer was “positively dangerous” say newly-disclosed MoD documents – ComputerWeekly.com

 

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