Ministry of Defence dismisses doubts over cause of Chinook crash

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The Independent Online

The Ministry of Defence has no plans to re-open the investigation into a fatal Chinook helicopter crash despite claims from aviation experts that the aircraft was mechanically flawed.

The RAF inquiry carried out after the 1994 crash, which killed 29 people including 25 senior intelligent experts, concluded that it was caused by the gross negligence of the two pilots.

But a leaked report written by Fellows of the Royal Aeronautical Society concluded the verdict was not sustainable. It said significant evidence pointed to other aircraft problems which could have potentially caused the crash.

RAF regulations state a verdict of gross negligence can only be pronounced when there is no room for doubt that negligence is the cause of the accident.

However a MOD spokesman said there was "nothing new" in the report, which was prepared by three retired pilots and has not been endorsed by the Royal Aeronautical Society.

He said experts had studied it carefully, but found nothing to contradict the original "exhaustive" inquiry.

Speaking on the BBC's Newsnight programme, which obtained the report, the former Defence Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who gave the original verdict, defended the decision.

He said: "Quite naturally there was a desire to find the cause, to find who was responsible and draw a line under it and that has perhaps influenced some of the decisions that have been taken.

"So I think, you know, inevitably in tragedies of this kind, people are anxious to find a judgment.

"But when in the light of experience, subsequently, that decision turns out to have been on pretty shaky ground, then one should be strong enough to say well, it shouldn't be allowed to stand."

Officials from the Royal Aeronautical Society said they had not commissioned the report and would not endorse or publish it, as its scope fell outside the society's remit to study air safety.

The programme also claimed senior RAF officers were threatening to resign over the society's involvement with this latest report which was written by past or serving chairmen of the society's Flight Operations Group.

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell said on the programme: "I believe there was an injustice here and it's time that was put right."