Kent soldier inquest: Crash helicopter 'unsuitable'

Captain Ben Babington-Browne Image copyright PA
Image caption Captain Babington-Browne was one of six soldiers in the aircraft when it crashed

A helicopter that crashed on take-off in Afghanistan killing three soldiers was not the correct helicopter for the mission, an inquest has heard.

Kent soldier Captain Ben Babington-Browne and two Canadian troops died in the crash in July 2009.

The inquest heard the helicopter took off but the rotor blades whipped up dust, cutting visibility. It crashed into a fence and burst into flames.

An expert told the hearing in Maidstone the helicopter was too heavy.

Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander William Robley, of the UK Defence Helicopter Flying School, told the inquest the weight of the helicopter and the altitude and temperature meant it was not the correct helicopter for that mission.

The aircraft was being used as a "taxi" from forward operating base Mescal.

When asked if a competent pilot would have understood it was not the right helicopter, Lt Cdr Robley said it depended on their training.

And when asked by Deputy Coroner for Maidstone and Medway Andrew Campbell-Tiech QC if the risks of using the Canadian Griffon CH-146 helicopter in those conditions would have been obvious to him, Lt Cdr Robley replied "yes".

He said he was not aware from the Canadians of any difficulties they had had operating the helicopter in the hostile environment.

'Soldier trapped'

The inquest heard the weight was partly due to the large amount of fuel it carried.

Dr Michael Powers, counsel for the soldier's family, suggested there was a conflict between a desire to have adequate fuel and to fly within safe limits.

The hearing was told six people were on board at the time.

Capt Babington-Browne, from 22 Engineer Regiment, Royal Engineers, had been strapped in but was seated on the floor of the aircraft with his legs dangling out.

The inquest heard he became trapped during the incident.

The 27-year-old soldier's mother Nina Babington-Browne withdrew from the inquest as details of her son's death were disclosed.

Capt Babington-Browne, who trained at Sandhurst, was described by senior officers as a "rising star".

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