10 named and shamed over Nimrod crash

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The Independent Online

The damning report into the crash of RAF Nimrod XV230 over Afghanistan in 2006 singles out 10 people for criticism.

Five are from the Ministry of Defence - including two very senior military officers of four-star rank - three from BAE Systems and two from QinetiQ.

THE MINISTRY OF DEFENCE

General Sir Sam Cowan

He was promoted to a four-star general in September 1998 and appointed the first Chief of Defence Logistics in April 1999.

In this role he was responsible for carrying out the Government's plan to unite the separate logistics support agencies for the Royal Navy, Army and RAF into a single Defence Logistics Organisation.

In 2000 he announced a target of reducing costs by 20% by 2005.

Report author Charles Haddon-Cave QC was scathing about this money-saving edict.

He wrote: "The strong impression one gets from the witnesses and the evidence is that the 'strategic goal' of 20% and other required financial savings were implemented across the board with a ruthless, if not 'Stalinistic', efficiency."

Mr Haddon-Cave criticised Gen Cowan for not giving enough thought to the impact of imposing his cost-cutting target.

He should have realised it could come at the expense of safety and airworthiness, the report said.

Gen Cowan left the post in August 2002 and is now retired.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Malcolm Pledger

He succeeded Gen Cowan as Chief of Defence Logistics in September 2002 despite later admitting to Mr Haddon-Cave's review he did not believe he was fully qualified for the job.

The report noted he was to some extent "handed a poisoned chalice" but it went on to criticise him.

It suggested he was torn between delivering the target of 20% cost savings and supporting the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq that were then under way.

Mr Haddon-Cave said he should have questioned whether it was "feasible, realistic and sensible" to press on with the 20% goal at the same pace and within the same timescale.

"There should, at least, have been pause for thought," the report said.

Air Chief Marshal Pledger stood down in December 2004 and is now retired.

Group Captain (now Air Commodore) George Baber

He was the leader of the Ministry of Defence integrated project team (IPT) responsible for a safety review of the RAF's Nimrods that took place between 2001 and 2005.

Mr Haddon-Cave accused Group Capt Baber of a "fundamental failure of leadership" in drawing up the "safety case" into potential dangers in the fleet.

He allowed himself to be distracted by other matters, failed to follow processes he himself introduced and did not take reasonable care in signing off the project, the report said.

Mr Haddon-Cave noted he appeared to have been more interested in "trumpeting" the fact that it was the first safety review of an old aircraft than ensuring its contents were correct.

He wrote: "He failed to give the NSC (Nimrod safety case) the priority it deserved. In doing so, he failed, in truth, to make safety his first priority."

Group Capt Baber has since been promoted and is still serving with the RAF.

Wing Commander Michael Eagles

As head of air vehicle for the Nimrod, he was supposed to be in charge of managing production of the safety review.

But the report found that he delegated the project "wholesale" to a Ministry of Defence civilian worker called Frank Walsh, who was too inexperienced and not competent enough to manage it.

Mr Haddon-Cave wrote: "Michael Eagles failed to give adequate priority, care and personal attention to the NSC task.

"He failed properly to utilise the resources available to him within the Nimrod IPT to ensure the airworthiness of the Nimrod fleet."

Wing Cdr Eagles is still serving with the RAF.

Frank Walsh

He was safety manager for the Nimrod review and primary point of contact with the BAE Systems team carrying out the work.

The report noted that he should not never have been placed in the position of having to manage the project with little or no supervision or guidance.

But it said he assessed hazards himself in a "slapdash" manner and failed to alert his superiors when he realised he had overlooked important issues.

Mr Haddon-Cave wrote: "Frank Walsh's failure to put his hand up and admit to his superiors that he had overlooked matters, and then effectively to cover over his mistakes, is his most serious failing. In doing so, he failed to act honourably.

"In matters of safety, there can be no compromise on openness and honesty."

Mr Walsh has since left the Ministry of Defence.

BAE SYSTEMS

Chris Lowe

As chief airworthiness engineer for defence giant BAE Systems, he was heavily involved in preparing the main documents in the Nimrod safety review.

The report said he bore the heaviest responsibility for the "poor planning, poor management and poor execution" of the project.

Mr Haddon-Cave rejected his claim that he was only keeping a "top level" eye on the review and said he was "clearly very much hands-on".

Mr Lowe was ambitious for himself and his company, and hoped the Nimrod project would enhance his standing and open up new commercial avenues for BAE Systems, the report said.

But he "underestimated the nature of the task and overestimated his own abilities", ignoring the fact that the review was flawed and not finished, Mr Haddon-Cave found.

The report said: "What really mattered was producing an impressive-looking set of reports on time which could be trumpeted by his department as a success.

"He was ultimately prepared to draw a veil over the incomplete nature of the work. The actual content, quality and completeness of the work was not paramount important (sic) because he, like most others, assumed the Nimrod to be 'safe anyway' because of its service history."

Richard Oldfield

He was the leader of the Nimrod review for BAE Systems.

The report found he did not come clean about large gaps in the analysis of possible risks and failed to manage the project properly.

Eric Prince

As the company's flight systems and avionics manager, he played a key role in the Nimrod safety project.

Mr Haddon-Cave said: "He too was prepared to see the customer be given a deliberately misleading impression as to the completeness of the work."

QINETIQ

Martyn Mahy

He was Nimrod review task manager for defence technology firm QinetiQ, which was the independent adviser for the project.

Mr Haddon-Cave criticised him for failing to do his job properly in certain key areas and failing to give any real independent assurance.

The report noted that he either signed off or approved the signing off of BAE Systems reports without reading them.

Colin Blagrove

As technical assurance manager for the Nimrod safety review, it was his ultimate responsibility to ensure QinetiQ did not sign off anything unless it was appropriate to do so.

The report found that he failed in this "critical" task.

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