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Parliament’s most powerful select committee has begun new enquiries into software problems on the Chinook helicopter type that crashed on the Mull of Kintyre in 1994.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is concerned over whether the Ministry of Defence (MoD) made the right decision to allow Chinook’s Full Authority Digital Engine Control (Fadec) system to go into service, despite flaws.
Fadec was incorporated into a £143m mid-life update of the Chinook. The modified helicopter went into service in early 1994, a few months before a Chinook crashed killing four crew and 25 senior intelligence and police officers.
During a committee hearing last week, which was at times heated, the Ministry of Defence’s permanent under-secretary of state Kevin Tebbit tried to assure the chairman David Davis that Fadec had been safe since it went into service. He said it was not a safety-critical component.
But committee members with MoD documents from independent specialists and from Computer Weekly were dissatisfied with some of Tebbit’s answers. They said that Fadec was designated safety critical by Boeing and there had been Fadec-related engine problems.
Davis asked the MoD to answer, in writing, a series of questions on Fadec. The committee is expected to issue a report which could call for a reopening of investigations into the crash. The pilots were blamed for the accident on the Mull of Kintyre, but questions remain whether Fadec could have been a factor.