MoD's silence on Chinook claims
The MoD has refused to comment on claims from one of its former experts that it knew the Chinook that crashed and killed leading Northern Ireland intelligence experts in 1994 was unfit to fly.
The helicopter was carrying 25 of Britain’s most senior intelligence experts from the Province to a conference in Inverness when it crashed on the Mull of Kintyre.
David Hill, a retired MoD avionics expert, alleges that the MoD’s own safety experts filed official reports two years before the crash to say the Chinooks were not fit to fly.
He makes the claims in his new book, ‘Their Greatest Disgrace, the campaign to clear the Chinook ZD576 pilots’ published by Nemesis Books.
In 2007 a campaign group gave him a massive archive including an MoD Chinook Airworthiness Review Team (CHART) report on the fleet of around 40 RAF Chinooks.
On close examination of the report he found the fleet had 56 noncompliances with safety standards, adding “it was mostly noncompliance”.
He added: “I was appalled. It was an appalling document.
“The key fact was the supporting evidence which trialled each aspect of the Chinook’s performance.”
The MoD’s Aeroplane and Armaments Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down stated of the fleet: “The Chinook MkII is not airworthy and is not be relied on in any way.”
The findings, compiled two years before the crash, were signed off by RAF chiefs the year before the crash, Mr Hill says.
He claims that the government’s 2011 apology to the families of the two pilots merely set aside earlier RAF findings that they had been “negligent to a gross degree”.
This apology was only a “legal nicety” in that it found the high standard of proof required to make such a finding against them had not been reached.
“As it stands, officially the cause of the crash is still not known,” he said.
Mr Hill’s MoD job at the time of the crash was to ensure the airworthiness of Sea King helicopters. He worked in London alongside similar teams whose job was to maintain Chinooks.
There had been inquiries into the cause of the Mull of Kintyre crash by the RAF in 1995, the Scottish Crown office in 1997, a number by the House of Commons until 2000 and a further one by the House of Lords in 2002.
But Mr Hill claims none of these inquiries ever saw the critical CHART report he now cites. And none of the experts who compiled the report ever gave evidence to any of the inquiries, he maintains.
“I believe the MoD deliberately buried this,” he says. “Those men never had a choice not to fly that night.”