Scotland backs Chinook crash report

The Scottish Executive has found that Computer Weekly uncovered new evidence over the reliability of the Fadec (Full Authority Digital Engine Control)...

The Scottish Executive has found that Computer Weekly uncovered new evidence over the reliability of the Fadec (Full Authority Digital Engine Control) safety-critical software installed on the type of Chinook helicopter that crashed on the Mull of Kintyre in 1994.

The Ministry of Defence has repeatedly said that no new evidence on Fadec has emerged since a RAF Board of Inquiry blamed the pilots for the crash, which killed four crew and 25 senior intelligence and police officers.

Continuing public concern over the alleged injustice of the RAF's decision to blame the pilots has led the Lord Advocate in Scotland, Colin Boyd QC, to order a review of evidence connected with the accident.

The result of the review, by Crown Counsel, found that Computer Weekly's evidence on Fadec was "new information" which could "reinforce" the results of a 1996 Sheriff's Fatal Accident Inquiry, that said there were doubts over whether the pilots could be blamed.

The MoD maintains that there is "absolutely no doubt whatsoever" that the two dead pilots of Chinook ZD576 were grossly negligent. However, Computer Weekly and Channel Four News have highlighted potentially serious problems with the helicopter's safety-critical Fadec system.

The RAF and the MoD are now becoming isolated in their view that there is no doubt over the cause of the accident. A recent investigation by three fellows of the Royal Aeronautical Society raised new uncertainties.

Doubt has also been expressed by dozens of MPs and Lords, and hundreds of specialists who read Computer Weekly.

The Lord Advocate said in a letter to Scottish MP Kenny MacAskill that he had asked Crown Counsel to review information published since the 1996 Scottish Fatal Accident inquiry "principally concerning Fadec".

Included in the inquiry was Computer Weekly's material, which includes a 140-page report, RAF Justice, published on the Internet, which found that there had been a cover-up of problems with the Fadec.

Counsel also studied papers from the original RAF Board of Inquiry and a Fatal Accident Inquiry by a Sheriff in Scotland.

Boyd does not rule out problems with Fadec as a possible cause of the accident. He said: "Insofar as the new information about Fadec invites speculation as to another possible cause for the crash, it may be thought to reinforce the Sheriff's inconclusive determination as to the cause of the accident."

However, in the letter, Boyd admits that the Scottish Executive has no power to overturn the finding of the RAF Board of Inquiry. "The determination by the RAF of the cause of the accident is a matter for the Ministry of Defence and not for me," he said.

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