'Safety failure link' to Chinook and Nimrod crashes

The wreckage of RAF Chinook ZD576
Image caption Twenty-nine people were killed when the Chinook helicopter crashed on the Mull of Kintyre in 1994

A former engineer has claimed there may be links between two of the worst fatal accidents in modern military history.

Jimmy Jones believes there were safety issues years before the 1994 Chinook crash in Scotland and the loss of a Nimrod in Afghanistan 12 years later.

He is convinced the danger signs lie in official reports on both aircraft, one of which the MoD said would cost too much to locate and release.

The MoD said information requests from the public were subject to cost limits.

Mr Jones's call to the defence secretary to release the paper comes days before a report into the Mull of Kintyre crash.

In September last year, Liam Fox ordered a review into the cause of the 1994 Chinook helicopter crash.

Twenty-nine people were killed on the flight from Belfast to Inverness.

They included 25 of Northern Ireland's most senior intelligence experts and four special forces crew.

The two pilots were blamed for gross negligence by RAF air marshals but the findings have been disputed by campaigners ever since.

The review, chaired by Lord Alexander Philip, is due to report shortly.

Report sought

Mr Jones, who worked on Nimrod fleet and advises the bereaved families of the 2006 crash, wants Mr Fox to give Lord Philip a 1998 report on the Nimrod's airworthiness.

He said it should be considered alongside a similar report which casts doubt over the safety of the Chinook fleet two years before that crash.

Mr Jones sought the full Nimrod report under freedom of information rules but was told by the MoD that it "could not be located" after more than 40 hours of searching through paper and electronic records.

Now the department has said it does have the report and that it was not released on cost grounds.

Asked if Lord Philip was given access to it, a spokesman said: "The review had access to everything it needed to complete the review."

Mr Jones has accused the MoD of refusing to release the report because it would show senior officials ignored warnings about the Nimrod's airworthiness - in a similar way he said that they ignored safety and maintenance concerns in the Chinook fleet.

He said he would continue to press for the full report to be released.

A spokesman for the MoD said: "The MoD has not lost the Nimrod Airworthiness Review Team Report.

"The MoD supports any requests from an official inquiry for documents without cost or time limits. Public requests for MoD documents are however subject to cost limits set out under freedom of information legislation."

'Carbon copy'

Mr Jones said the Nimrod airworthiness review in 1998 was "almost a carbon copy" of the 1992 Chinook report.

He said both papers revealed a period of "neglect" during the 1990s culminating in lower staff levels and experience, inadequate training, over flying, failure to investigate faults, out-dated publications and poor communication.

Mr Jones said extracts of the Nimrod report could be found in the 2009 Charles Haddon-Cave QC report - a highly critical paper on the MoD's safety procedures prior to the 2006 Nimrod crash.

Fourteen crewmen, based at RAF Kinloss in Moray, died when the aircraft - XV230 - blew up after air-to-air refuelling over Afghanistan when leaking fuel made contact with a hot air pipe.

The Chinook Mark 2 helicopter crashed on 2 June 1994 en route from Northern Ireland to Inverness in the worst RAF helicopter accident in peacetime.

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