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.
All Labour ministers have accepted their briefings on the crash by civil servants and military top brass, and have steadfastly refused to order a review of the decision to blame the pilots.
Will the Tories go back on their promise to order a new review once they have been briefed by the five adversaries of the families of the dead pilots?
Computer Weekly will be publishing shortly internal MoD documents as further new evidence – new in the sense that they are newly-disclosed.
We will also publish, for the first time, evidence of a potentially fundamental weakness in the investigation of the crashed Chinook’s Fadec system by the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch. We will also publish details of particular faults in the system’s software.
RAF rules at the time were that dead pilots could not be found negligent unless there was “absolutely no doubt whatsoever”. And nobody can be certain the pilots were to blame.
Even if the test were “beyond reasonable doubt” the few uncontested facts wouldn’t support a finding of negligence.
Much of the helicopter was destroyed in the crash; there was no cockpit voice recorder or a flight data recorder; and the information downloaded by the manufacturer of an “RNS 252 SuperTANS” navigation computer, which was used by the RAF as substitute black box, was not independently verified.
The final decision on whether the pilots were negligent should be left to an independent judge.
It’s not a decision for me, for campaigners for the families of the dead pilots, or, with due respect, for the Five Knights named above.
Chinook accident review
SIR – We understand that in the event of a Conservative administration coming to power it will revisit the Mull of Kintyre Chinook accident and consider the negligence finding.
Each one of us has reviewed separately the findings of the Board of Inquiry and reached the same conclusion, namely that basic airmanship failings caused this tragic accident.
If yet another review is to take place then we would welcome an opportunity to brief ministers and discuss in necessary detail why this finding remains inescapable. In particular, it will be explained precisely why it cannot be overturned by recourse to a hypothesis for which there is no evidence and which is revealed as wholly implausible when tested against the known facts.
Sir Michael Graydon
Chief of the Air Staff 1992-1997
Sir Richard Johns
Chief of the Air Staff 1997-2000
Sir Peter Squire
Chief of the Air Staff 2000-2003
Sir Glenn Torpy
Chief of the Air Staff 2006-2009
Sir Michael Alcock
Chief Engineer (RAF) 1994-1999
Air Chiefs’ letter – Daily Telegraph
Flawed Chinook safety-critical Fadec updated only after Mull crash – IT Projects Blog
Call for pilots to be cleared – Daily Telegraph
BBC “Today” reports again on “bitter debate” over Chinook danger Fadec – IT Projects Blog