CHINOOK CRASH JUNE 1994

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Michael Hamilton
Kelso

It is unfortunate that so many inquiries are being followed these days by a further inquiry resulting from continuing public disquiet about the previous findings (Top Scots judge to head new Chinook crash probe: Herald, September 19).

Prolonged elapse of time makes the task of the second inquiry no easier.

Michael Hamilton
Kelso

It is unfortunate that so many inquiries are being followed these days by a further inquiry resulting from continuing public disquiet about the previous findings (Top Scots judge to head new Chinook crash probe: Herald, September 19).

Prolonged elapse of time makes the task of the second inquiry no easier.

I was shocked by the Chinook crash and I have thought about it on and off ever since. When reading Churchill’s History of the Second World War I noted his anger and immediate direction to prevent a repetition of the stupidity when he was informed of the sinking of one of two priority cargo ships in the Mediterranean – one was loaded with BREN machine guns and the other with ammunition to supply the guns.  Livid, he ordered that henceforward such cargoes would be split 50/50 between the ships to ensure in the event of one being sunk, the cargo of the surviving ship would be useable.

It happened again recently when the President of Poland died in an aircraft crash with so many prominent colleagues.

Hearing the news of the tragic deaths of almost all the senior intelligence experts in Northern Ireland in one helicopter reminded me of the need not to have so many vitally important skilled people in one aircraft. Surely critical load-splitting should not have to reach prime ministerial level before its prudence becomes apparent.

The report on the Chinook disaster made no mention of flight planning. Two former RAF pilots, by then ranking as Air Marshalls, confirmed the findings of the RAF inquiry. No pilot finds two other pilots, now dead, guilty of negligence with anything but a heavy heart.

I had believed that a VIP cargo flight over high ground in an area of known rapidly changing weather and hence visual flight conditions would require a flight plan to be filed before departure. After a known number of minutes, the aircraft should already have climbed to a safe clearance height to avoid any last minute visibility problems. That seemed to me to be a failure of flight planning.

But how many people know that on Wednesday 1 June 1994, the MoD test pilots at Boscombe Down refused to fly the Chinook HC.2 until engines, engine control systems and FADEC software were rectified on the model in RAF service?

On Thursday 2 June 1994, Chinook ZD576 crashed.

The need for a second inquiry into Bloody Sunday after the so-termed Widgery Whitewash became apparent when Lord Widgery died of dementia not many years later, making it apparent that his 12 week inquiry must have been marred by his undiagnosed but developing dementia. The causes of other inquiries are not so clearly explicable after the passage of time.

The outcome of the second Chinook Inquiry will be awaited with concern among RAF aircrew and service passengers alike and perhaps much more importantly, by the many bereaved relatives.