Primarily for general aviation discussion, but other aviation topics are also welcome.
Yes. The aircraft was destroyed by fire - no FDR/CVR. The aircraft was not airworthy - a senior officer had illegally issued a time-limited Release to Service on the type a few days before the crash, despite a clear audit trail that said it wasn’t airworthy. Boscombe Down test pilots had refused to do anything with the Mk2 other than plug-in an external power supply. Known issues included erroneous FADEC software, no avionics sign-off and no icing clearance.

Fog, yes an interesting dilemma. They couldn’t have climbed (icing) so it was either press-on or go back, the latter being rather unpalatable bearing-in mind the pax manifest which included quite a few sets of golf clubs. The weather further up the Great Glen was fine. As I said earlier, most of us think that Rick and John probably got it wrong, like so many before and so many since. However, there was never enough evidence to support the Gross Negligence finding as the RAF’s own criteria at the time said that such a finding could only be made against deceased aircrew if there was “absolute certainty”. Bill Wratten, the senior officer overseeing the Board of Inquiry over-turned the initial findings (which offered a probability of CFIT) and made the Gross Negligence finding without any additional evidence.

Finally, there was no thrill seeking at all. The task was a routine transit at the end of a duty day. Rick and John were not cowboys.
vintage ATCO, Moli, Flyin'Dutch' and 1 others liked this
Dave I do not believe I suggested, nor was it my intention to suggest, that Rick or John were 'cowboys' but that they perhaps bowed to pressure from high above when they oughtn't to have done. But that's speculation on my part. It's a confusing and unclear picture. I've had friends do a CFIT on a transit in crappy Wx when the better outcome would have been a 180 and catch a schedule.

Icing? In June? Not impossible but likely? Is the Chinook that intolerant of ice?

As to the Great Glen and fog, yeah, well I know a little about that, not technically fog but cloud to near ground level when I thought my best option was to ditch in a loch, but I got lucky when I needed it and the weather farther up was indeed fine. It looks like a north/south feature but it also runs from the west coast to the east coast where conditions can be very different. But the glen, while pretty straight is also pretty tight in places low down and there are HT lines crossing as well.

One other thing which I seem to recall from back then and which suggests to me that there was no debilitating technical failure is that just before the crash the crew were switching comms. That doesn't sound like they were dealing with a critical situation.

Anyway, perhaps enough said by me on this. I'm not trying to stir things up about peoples reps and what they should or shouldn't have done. It was tragic occurrence however it came about.
It was a complex case which wasn't helped by all the 'wotifs' which included conspiracy theories, terrorism, aliens etc. Icing was definitely proven to be an issue as the en-route safety altitude was based upon Ben Nevis and it was demonstrated that they could not have legally climbed.

Switching Comms - about 20 seconds before impact the NAV waypoint had been cycled. Data from this nav source was not complete.

For sure, the balance of probabilities (see footballer crash thread) is that the crew got it wrong. Balance of probabilities (51%) was a very long stretch from the RAF's 100% criteria for Gross Negligence. Let's not forget that once we get our head around the direct cause of crash argument it is important to recognise the airworthiness issue, which was far more deliberate and worse than that surrounding the Afghanistan Nimrod crash which forced the Haddon-Cave review. Crews were lied to and given an un-airworthy aircraft; that's the real scandal.
Moli, Stu B, Flyin'Dutch' liked this
As one of the people who campaigned for many years on this I am pleased that people still remember this disaster, which touched so many families.

That the RAF failed to follow their own procedures regarding apportioning blame to deceased aircrew is not in doubt, nor is the fact that the Chinook HC2 was unfit for service. The crew knew this and had requested an HC1, which was available but the request was denied on instruction from higher up the food chain.

There is no evidence of any pressure for a joyride, and it is disappointing to see such theories persist. As Dave said, Jon & Rick were professionals who would not mess around, particularly in an aircraft they didn't have 100% confidence in.

Regarding the altitude, the aircraft wasn't cleared for flight into icing conditions. I have cut and pasted this from the House of Lords report which hopefully explains the reasoning:

"Instrument flight must be conducted at or above a height ("safety altitude") 1000 ft above each of the high obstacles on the intended route (Q 280). Flt Lt Tapper had calculated the safety altitudes for the latter part of the sortie as 5900 ft Mull-Corran and 5800 ft Corran-Inverness. The CA Release precluded flight in an indicated temperature below +4° C. A weather aftercast shows that this temperature would have been reached at 5000 ft; and the Sheriff calculated that the crew may well have expected to reach it much lower, at 2500 ft "

One final point regarding this:

I seem to recall from back then and which suggests to me that there was no debilitating technical failure is that just before the crash the crew were switching comms. That doesn't sound like they were dealing with a critical situation.

I’m sure we all have great respect for the work of the AAIB. In this case there was sufficient evidence of possible technical failures for Tony Cable (the lead crash investigator) to tell the House Of Lords inquiry that he could not say with any certainty that the aircraft was serviceable at the point of impact. I am paraphrasing as it is a long time ago, but I was in the room when he said it and I remember we thought at the time that this was the “sufficient doubt” that we were looking for.

So what did happen? At the same HoL inquiry I remember watching the two senior Air officers involved produce hypothetical conclusions based on manipulating extrapolated data in a way which suited their case, going against the conclusion of the investigating RAF officers immediately below them who were of the view that no blame could be apportioned based on the evidence. These two officers who blamed the pilots were the same officers responsible for the troubled HC2 Chinook programme. Coincidence?

Regarding the destruction of records - I am of the opinion that these should be released at some point, and should be retained until then. I can't imagine it's a huge archive in the big scheme of things.
Dave Phillips, Sooty25, vintage ATCO and 1 others liked this
rf3flyer wrote:Do the military abide by what we civilians understand as airworthiness regulations? Not sure they do but if there were technical failures which were a direct cause of the crash, with the wreckage on dry land I'm fairly sure those technical failures would have been uncovered.

But what I have never understood about the event is why any aircrew would continue at low level towards known high ground obscured by fog! Is there anyone here who would do that? It wasn't a tactical flight, just transportation so why not climb to MSA and continue en route? All the more so if there were technical issues to deal with. Not immediately, granted, but up ahead is the highest terrain in Great Britain!

I have long suspected that some senior officer leant on the flight crew that day to give the VIPs down the back a thrill, a low level run up the Great Glen to Inverness and Fort George, 'show 'em what we can do' sort of thing, 'there's a good chap'.

That does seem like a rational reason for them being where they were; I never understood that either. Or why they were in a helicopter in the first place, as they were going from Aldergrove to Inverness - both with perfectly serviceable long runways enabling a rather more comfortable & faster aircraft to be utilised.
I have long been of the opinion that it is most likely that, rather than one sole cause, this accident like so many others is most likely to have occurred following multiple factors.

As some may be aware, the HC2 was a retrofitted upgrade programme to the original HC1 Chinooks which the RAF was operating. It included a computerised engine control system (FADEC) in place of the previous conventional controls. At the time of the accident the initial HC2's had been given a limited release to service within the RAF, which means that they had specific limitations on their performance whilst the test programme was continuing. Typical limitations typically including speed, payload, max altitude, etc. In the case of the HC2, there was a limitation on flight into potential icing conditions.

As previously mentioned, the test programme at Boscombe Down had been suspended earlier in the week due to a number of issues which rendered the aircraft - in the opinion of the chief test pilot (a Sqn Ldr whose name escapes me for now) - unsafe to fly. Indeed they refused to even fly the aircraft the short distance back to its base. In my mind this alone should have been enough to ground every other HC2.

The main issue was with the FADEC system which had in the days leading up to the crash produced a number of uncommanded 'runups' (full power) or rundowns (idol power), sometimes in one engine, sometimes in both. There were other issues including false warning lamps relating to FADEC which crews had been instructed to ignore unless they stayed illuminated after 12 seconds. 12 seconds at low level is a very long time.

My preferred theory is a combination of human and technical failures. Perhaps they saw an engine fail caption and decided to make a precautionary landing at Macrihanish but, distracted by issues, misjudged the height of the landmass. Another possibility is loss of engine control - either a runup, rundown, or both. The FADEC had no inbuilt memory and there was no flight data recorder, so none of these theories are verifiable. There was no Mayday call but, as even the newest student pilot knows the order of priorities is: Aviate, Navigate, Communicate.

Given the history of issues found in testing and operations this theory seems as credible as any other, and if I've painted a picture of an aircraft which should never have been in the air then that is entirely deliberate.
Moli liked this