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Questions over Chinook crash need answered

I WAS astonished that the mass media all but chose to ignore the 20th anniversary of the tragic accident that cost the lives of 29 people on the Mull of Kintyre on June 4, 1994.

An RAF Chinook helicopter carrying intelligence personnel from Northern Ireland crashed in low cloud, apparently because the pilots were unaware of the danger. However, officially, the accident remains unexplained, with no plans to reopen the investigation.

In spite of this, the Ministry of Defence has accepted a recommendation from Lord Philip that the accusation of 'gross negligence' against the pilots should be set aside and has apologised to the families for that verdict and released compensation previously withheld from them on the grounds of the pilots' 'contributory negligence'. This has given the impression that the pilots were not to blame for the accident. But if the cause is unknown, pilot error cannot be ruled out.

To confuse matters further, Lord Philip appeared to be exercised about the fact that the verdict of 'gross negligence' was based on RAF rules that require there to be no doubt whatsoever.

In law, of course, he was correct. But the Air Marshals who made the accusation had no doubt that the pilots had broken Flight Safety Rules for flying in meteorological conditions. The MoD should come to a conclusion one way, or the other. My book, Chinook Crash (2004), may inform readers who have yet to make up their minds.



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