Bell champions 'mass of new evidence' on Chinook crash

Tony Collins

Independent MP Martin Bell has told the House of Commons that a mass of new evidence has emerged over the possible causes of...

Tony Collins

Independent MP Martin Bell has told the House of Commons that a mass of new evidence has emerged over the possible causes of the notorious Chinook helicopter crash in 1994.

Computer Weekly and Channel 4 News' extensive examination of software problems related to the Chinook Mk2 helicopter's Full Authority Digital Engine Control (Fadec) system was praised during a House of Commons adjournment debate this week.

Computer Weekly published a 140-page report on the Internet entitled RAF Justice. It showed how officials misled parliament and withheld information about the software from crash investigators.

RAF Justice also showed how failures of systems and equipment on US Army Chinooks had caused several deaths and led to unexpected manoeuvres that could not be satisfactorily explained.

Bell welcomed this new evidence. He told the Commons, "New evidence has come to light, a mass of it, which undermines the verdict against the pilots."

He also said he hoped that the minister would listen to criticism of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in the debate rather than simply read from a prepared text. However the minister, Lewis Moonie, read from a prepared statement. He was the only speaker in the debate to back the decision to blame the pilots.

Senior Labour MP Martin O'Neill said there were "too many people in the MoD who have a vested interest in rubbishing the new evidence".

Lib-Dem spokesman David Rendell spoke in detail about problems with the Chinook's Fadec system and said it could not be ruled out as a possible cause of the crash on the Mull of Kintyre.

After the crash, which killed all 29 people - mostly police and army intelligence specialists - onboard the aircraft, two air marshals found the pilots to have been grossly negligent.

Bell and other MPs vowed to continue their campaign to clear the names of the pilots.

Former Labour minister Frank Field went further. He warned the MoD that the longer the campaign to clear the pilots continues the more it will "fan out" to include scrutiny of the conduct of the MoD itself. If this happens there could be "some very big losers indeed," he said.

A full report on the debate will appear in next week's issue

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