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Coalition to review Chinook crash findings

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Liam Fox, Defence Secretary, has asked the MoD to look at ways of doing an independent review into the decision to blame the pilots for the crash of a Chinook helicopter on the Mull of Kintyre in 1994.

He said the government would honour the promise it made, while in opposition, to review the crash findings.

The Government made the renewed commitment in the House of Commons today, in response to a question by Liberal Democrat Sir Menzies Campbell, who has campaigned for more than 12 years to clear the names of Flight Lieutenants Rick Cook and Jonathan Tapper, the pilots of Chinook ZD576.

The two pilots, two other crewmen, and twenty-five senior policeman and Northern Ireland intelligence officers were killed when ZD576 crashed into the Mull on 2 June 1994.

Nobody knows the cause of the crash and RAF rules at the time of the crash said that deceased aircrew could only be found negligent in cases where there was "absolutely no doubt whatsoever".


One of the worst software project failures in memory?

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Last month BBC R4's Today programme and Computer Weekly quoted from an MoD memo that said there was a "positively dangerous" flaw in the Chinook Mk2's safety-critical "Fadec" software.

Software code containing that dangerous flaw was fitted on the type of Chinook that crashed on the Mull of Kintyre in June 1994. The crash of Chinook ZD576 was one of the worst RAF accidents in peacetime.

All on board were killed including 25 VIPs.

There's active discussion today of a crash 16 years ago because two dead pilots were found to have caused the crash of an aircraft that some inside the RAF and the MoD considered was not safe to fly. The development of the Chinook Mk2 fuel-control software has been one of the most improvised projects we have investigated in decades.

It's likely that two RAF air marshals were unaware of the potential seriousness of the faults in the Chinook Mk2 when they found the dead pilots of Chinook ZD576, Flight Lieutenants Richard Cook and Jonathan Tapper, grossly negligent.

Only after an RAF Board of Inquiry into the Mull crash did it become clear that a series of internal documents had tried to alert the MoD hierarchy to the danger posed by the Chinook Mk2's safety-critical Fadec fuel control system.

That those internal MoD memos were not shown to the RAF Board of Inquiry into the Mull crash, or to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch which wrote a technical report on what it found in the wreckage, has never been explained.

The number of those who are now convinced the Mk2 Chinook helicopter was not airworthy has much increased since the disclosure of these documents.We have published several of the documents.

Now we're publishing (below) in technical detail another of the leaked documents: one written by EDS - which is now owned by HP. The EDS report explained in detail what was wrong with the Chinook Mk2's software.

EDS had been commissioned by the MoD to examine the Chinook Fadec's 16, 254 lines of software code.

The analysis was carried out in July 1993, nearly a year before the crash on the Mull.

EDS found such a density of "category one" anomalies - the most potentially serious flaws  - that I find it hard to believe that the RAF put the Mk2 Chinook into service without a software rewrite.

Five Knights ask to brief Tories on Chinook fatal crash

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Four former chiefs of the air staff - and a former RAF Chief Engineer - have written to the Daily Telegraph saying they would wish to brief ministers if there is "yet another" review of the RAF's decision to blame the pilots for the crash of Chinook ZD 576 on the Mull in June 1994.

Sir Michael Graydon, Sir Richard Johns, Sir Peter Squire, Sir Glenn Torpy, and Sir Michael Alcock say that the finding of gross negligence against the pilots of ZD 576 was "inescapable".

It appears that the five wish to preempt the appointment of a High Court judge to review the evidence against the pilots, which is what the Tories have promised to do if they are elected.

What Air France Airbus crash says about Chinook ZD 576

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Last week's press conference on the loss of the AF447 Air France Airbus A330-200 highlighted the importance of black boxes in any major fatal crash investigation.

Spokespeople for BEA, the French air accident investigators, were at the conference to report their interim findings. Without the cockpit voice and flight data recorders they don't know why the Airbus went into the Atlantic Ocean off Brazil on 1 June.

They still hope to find the cockpit voice and flight data recorders, although hopes of finding them before they are damaged by salt water, are fading.  

There's an extraordinary contrast in the [separate] investigations into the causes of the Airbus and Chinook crashes. In one, accident investigators admit they don't know what happened because there are no black boxes.

In the other, the MoD and two air marshals said the pilots caused the crash although the helicopter wasn't fitted with black boxes. Chinook ZD576 went into the Mull of Kintyre in June 1994, killing all 29 on board, including 25 VIPs.

The MoD and the air marshals didn't simply blame the pilots: they found them grossly negligent. RAF rules at the time said that deceased aircrew could be found negligent only if there was "absolutely no doubt whatsoever".

Airbus crash: can a triple-redundant system give false readings?

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Articles in Computer Weekly in June looked at the loss of the Air France Airbus A330-200 in comparison with two much earlier accidents.

French authorities have said there were indications that the pitot tubes on the Airbus might have been blocked, causing the onboard systems to give the pilots conflicting information about their air speed.

After two Boeing 757s went into the sea in 1996, with the loss of 259 lives, investigators discovered that the onboard systems had given the pilots conflicting information about their air speed because of blocked pitot-static systems.

"You're flying too fast and too slow" - what to do?

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The last few minutes in the cockpit of two Boeing 757s were spent in fatal confusion.

The computer-driven displays were warning the pilots they were flying too fast and too slow. Too fast and the airframe could break up. Too slow and the aircraft could stall. 

What could the pilots do?  

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