Chinook crash inquiry told of test 'flame-out'

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The Independent Online
An RAF Chinook helicopter suffered an engine "flame-out" and computer malfunctions during trials only weeks before a similar aircraft crashed killing 29 people, a fatal-accident inquiry was told yesterday.

Further trials of the troubled aircraft had been suspended while the engine failure was investigated, but the RAF continued flying Chinooks on operations, the inquiry at Paisley Sheriff's Court was told.

The inquiry concerns a Chinook which was en route from Northern Ireland to the Scottish Highlands when it crashed on the southern tip of the Mull of Kintyre on 2 June last year, killing everyone on board.

Those who died were 10 members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary special branch, nine Army intelligence officers, six MI5 officers and the four- man RAF crew.

At yesterday's preliminary hearing, the allegations of the faults found in the trials on a Chinook Mark II helicopter were raised by Aidan O'Neill, a lawyer representing the widow of the crash pilot, Flt Lt Jonathan Tapper. Flt Lt Tapper, 28, and his co-pilot, Flt Lt Richard Cook, 30, were blamed by RAF chiefs for the accident.

Mr O'Neill said he had received a statement from a Colonel Hodgkiss, who worked at the Ministry of Defence's Boscombe Down test facility. The colonel had said that on 7 March last year, during testing, there had been an incident in which a Chinook Mark II developed some type of "flame-out".

Trials of the aircraft were suspended while the engine failure was investigated. There were also several malfunctions of the machine's computer. Mr O'Neill said he would be grateful if the MoD could provide details of the incidents.

Siggi Bennet, for the MoD, claimed it was not the place to make such allegations. Earlier, the inquiry was told that the Chinook helicopter pilot had been accused of "gross negligence" and that the widows of the crewmen had been refused funding from the MoD for legal representation. About 50 witnesses are expected to give evidence to the inquiry, which is due to last four weeks.

Sir Stephen Young adjourned the hearing until 8 January.