As defence secretary Geoff Hoon rubbished the Public Accounts Committee report into the 1994 Chinook disaster, an MP at the centre of the case yesterday said the Government's response "sends all the wrong signals to the aviation software industry". Robert Key MP said it would encourage them to blame the pilots in any future accident.
At a press conference in Parliament, key revealed that, within hours of the PAC report, the MoD had agreed to release a crucial internal report on the process of RAF Boards of Inquiry. MPs had previously been refused access to the 1987 Tench Report, which advised that the boards should not seek to apportion blame. The tecnh recommendations were implemented after the Mull of Kintyre crash. If today's rules had been in place, the pilots could not have been found grossly negligent, said Key.
In response to the Government's refusal to reopen the enquiry, Key released an internal RAF memo, written just four days after the crash, in which a senior RAF commander urged testing experts at Boscome down to reverse their refusal to let the Chinook fly, due to safety concerns. An unnamed RAF officer entitled AOCINC says in the 6 June 1994 draft minute:
"Their ongoing stance towards the [Chinook] Mk2 contrasts sharply with the considerable efforts being made by the front line to bring the aircraft into service and maintain a capability. It also does nothing to engender aircrew confidence in the aircraft. In sum I find A&AEE's attitude quite incredible"
The PAC report had cited operational pressures on RAF commanders to get the Chinook into service as creating a potential impression of conflict of interest with the commanders' role as judge and jury in the boards of inquiry.
This was first published in November 2000