Letter: Skills of the RAF eroded

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The Independent Online
Sir: The types of the military aircraft lost in the past 12 months are different and the causes of the accidents will vary (report, 28 February). The one common factor affecting the operation of military aircraft has been the way in which the Government's demand for defence savings has been implemented. There have been cutbacks in manpower, training, provision of spares and a reliance on contractor support.

I write as a recently retired engineer officer of the RAF who, with others, has been disturbed about the unseemly haste and lack of thought.

In the wake of Front Line First, uniformed manpower has been run down to support only operational tasks. There is no longer the ability to give them a period of stability by rotating them through less demanding work areas, as these have now been civilianised. The result is an overworked, tired workforce.

Economies have been made in technical training. One of the finest boy training schemes, set up by the founder of the RAF, Lord Trenchard, has been dismantled. This gave a depth of understanding of the reason for the work to be done and a skill-of-hand that was difficult to equal. Today's training provides no such depth of knowledge and skill to the aspiring mechanic.

Whilst none of the above may have been a direct cause of any of the aircraft losses they nevertheless affect the airworthiness of the aircraft flown by the military services. The measures introduced over the past few years have destroyed the systems painstakingly built on the harsh experience gained in the short history of aircraft operations.

P C Carrell