Nimrod crash could have been avoided, says new accident report

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The Nimrod spy plane crash that killed 14 British servicemen in Afghanistan might have been avoided if the military had learned the lessons from an incident that almost brought down another Nimrod two years earlier, The Independent on Sunday has learned.

The crash that destroyed the surveillance plane last September caused the biggest single military loss of life for 25 years. A military board of inquiry report into the disaster, published last Tuesday, blamed fuel leaking on to a hot air pipe for the explosion which brought the aircraft down, killing everyone aboard.

However, another report seen by the IoS reveals that in 2004 a Nimrod crew was forced to make an emergency landing at RAF Kinloss in Scotland after serious technical problems similar to those that brought down the plane in Afghanistan, on another of the ageing aircraft.

In an unusually contrite statement this week, the Secretary of State for Defence, Des Browne, apologised to the families of those killed and said they would be paid compensation. He also announced a review led by a leading barrister into the accident. The MoD said that it had not ruled out a full public inquiry.

Graham Knight, the father of Sergeant Ben Knight, 25, who died in the crash, said the review would have to concentrate on "anomalies" in the board of inquiry report concerning the maintenance of the Nimrods. The report referred to a "reduction in manpower" leading to a lack of experience among ground staff". Mr Knight said: "I'm glad Des Browne stood up and bit the bullet, and said 'it was our fault'.

"However, the report is only the tip of the iceberg far more is still to be uncovered. There are a lot more questions on the airworthiness of the aircraft that need to be addressed."