27/05/2010

Chinook Pilots 'Negligence' To Be Reviewed

There's to be another investigation into the now infamous crash of a Chinook helicopter near Inverness.

Confusion and distress has been continuing for the relatives of the two RAF pilots variously cleared and then found guilty of 'gross negligence' after multiple fatalities in the crash on the Mull of Kintyre in 1994.

It has seen growing demands for a fresh review that could posthumously clear the pilots.

The helicopter was carrying the elite of Northern Ireland's security personnel - and hit a hillside while flying from RAF Aldergrove, near Belfast, to Fort George,

The personnel aboard were on their way to attend a high-level security conference on terrorist intentions during a then ongoing deadly terror campaign.

It was the one single event that caused the heaviest loss among Northern Ireland's intelligence community in that it killed the four Special Forces crew and 25 senior members of Northern Ireland's anti-terror command - military and RUC officers included.

An RAF inquiry accused Flt Lts Jonathan Tapper and Richard Cook of 'gross negligence'.

But, this was at odds with the first investigation, after the helicopter crash happened, in thick fog en route from Northern Ireland to Inverness, when pilots Tapper and Cook were cleared of blame.

That decision was then overturned after the formal fatal accident inquiry by two senior RAF officers, who both claimed the pilots had been flying too fast and too low in the thick fog.
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Now, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is considering reviewing the findings from a 1994 RAF Chinook crash which blamed the two pilots for gross negligence, the Defence Secretary has revealed.

In response to Lib Dem Sir Menzies Campbell urging a review, Liam Fox said the MoD was "already looking" at ways to conduct "an independent review".

He said the Government would fulfil its promise made in opposition to review the case.

Flt Lt Jonathan Tapper, 30, was from Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk, and Flt Lt Richard Cook, 28, from Church Crookham, Hampshire, and both were initially cleared of blame by an RAF board of inquiry and three subsequent inquiries have found the cause of the crash on the western coast of Scotland was inconclusive.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox, a Conservative, said: "In opposition we said there would be an independent review of the evidence and I can confirm that the Ministry of Defence is already looking at the best way to undertake that.

"We will certainly live up to the promise we made in opposition."

The father of Flt Lt Tapper said he hoped his son would now be cleared of blame.

See: Chinook Pilots Verdict To Stand

See: Chinook Crash Case To Be Re-examined

See: RAF pilots cleared of blame for Chinook 1994 Mull of Kintyre crash

(BMcC/GK)

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