Military AircrewA forum for the professionals who fly the non-civilian hardware, and the backroom boys and girls without whom nothing would leave the ground. Army, Navy and Airforces of the World, all equally welcome here.
Despite good cooperation from authorities up north, it seems that there are no photos from the sea side looking at the Mull available - despite there having been 4 hours of daylight left after the crash. There are plenty taken on the ground within the mist but nothing that could have helped us understand what the pilots saw as they approached. All I can say is that I believe the conditions that I have described previously, based upon much personal experience in such areas, are highly probable to have been prevailing at the time of the crash. Ah well.
. Just thought I'd leave you with some photos to give you a feel for the ground (taken at a different time of day, different time of year, etc so there're nice and clear). http://s229.photobucket.com/albums/e...t=DSCF0270.jpg This is the firm level site which I have previously described - the pos of waypoint A is just off the top left corner of the green triangle in this view.
Standing on the site and panning right to show that, in the event of a wave off, there was a clear run north between the masts and the high ground - the only safe approach to this site would have been to head for waypoint A and turn north if conditions were not suitable for landing. This was the site at which some people in authority (up North) thought the Chinook was going to land at - as Chinooks had landed there before. The Baro alt subscale was set so as to be a QFI for the elevation of this site and one of the RADALT alarms being set to min (appropriate for immediate landing in marginal conditions) supports this. I hope these pictures will help readers understand that landing at this site was an option practically speaking and so it should be viewed as strange that a known LZ, for which the inner marker was loaded as a waypoint (A) and the altimeters were set appropriately for a landing at that site, so close to a crash site should not have been mentioned at ANY of the inquiries. Actually, waypoint A was repeatedly described as an erroneous position for the light house together with insinuations that the crew had been sloppy in this respect - I hope that these posts will show what an outrageous lie that was.
Your contribution to this campaign has been enormous. It was perhaps our greatest good fortune when you arrived in Paisley. You have provided us with a truly impressive commentary in your recent posts. A 'wordsmith' of the very highest quality!
Antenna Many thanks for your very comprehensive reply. It gives a good, no, a dreadful impression of the situation in those days. It bears no relation to the RAF I knew in Hong Kong in the 70's where our Air Corps Squadron formed the Joint Helicopter Force with 28 Sqdn RAF. Your description of the "ad hoc SOP" sounds barely credible in a modern Air Force. I cannot understand how an aircraft could be released to service with such limitations. One question. If the HC2 had been grounded the day before, as previous posts indicate, how come it was flying that sad day regards Boslandew
Tandemrotor: I couldn't agree more dear boy. A meeting and soon would make for a Christmas present of some cheer but the doilies will remain wrapped for another festive season I fear. Frankly I fancy a quick climb up Ben Nevis with you but the locals don't supply it. A real privilege to be working this file, and thanks indeed for the very kind words. Sorry been so out of touch with my fingers recently. Been reading lots though.
Boslandew: Why was ZD576 in squadron service? The order to ground flying at Boscombe Down was not applied into active squadron life because the decision to ground the HC2 was framed as being a reasonable safety decision only for those attempting to expand the testing envelope with what was still an experimental aircraft.
At the time of the accident ZD576 had flown 66.5 hours since receiving the mid-life update, which had seen the installation of the Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) system.
As Parliament found: "FADEC had been fitted in a number of RAF Chinooks over the preceding years and had given rise to certain problems. In the summer of 1993 an independent defence IT contractor, EDS-SCICON, was instructed to review the FADEC software; after examining only 18 per cent of the code they found 486 anomalies and stopped the review. In October 1993 the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at Boscombe Down advised the MoD that because of the unverifiable nature of the FADEC software it could not recommend Controller Aircraft Release for the Chinook Mk 2.
Both EDS-SCICON and A&AEE recommended that the FADEC software be rewritten but this was not done, and in November 1993 Chinook Mk 2s were released into operational service, subject to certain operational restrictions on the load which they could carry and the height at which they could fly thereby avoiding icing - restrictions which had not applied to the Chinook Mk 1. In addition intermittent engine failure captions were being regularly experienced by aircrew of Chinook Mk 2s and there were instances of uncommanded run up and run down of the engines and undemanded flight control movements (UFCMs).
"On 1 June 1994 flying tests of the Chinook Mk 2 were suspended at Boscombe Down. Squadron Leader ***, at that time Flight Commander of the Chinook Operational Conversion Unit, thought that this suspension was "connected with icing trials" and not due to FADEC difficulties (Q 484; cf MoD letter 2 Nov 2001, p 65 of HL Paper 25(ii)).
However, in comments by the MoD on a paper submitted to them by Lord Chalfont, it is stated:
"Boscombe Down's decision not to authorise further trials flying in June 1994 was made against a background of several engine control system malfunctions that had occurred on the ground during start up checks, which had not at that point been explained to Boscombe Down's satisfaction by the aircraft or engine Design Authority. The necessary clarification was completed and accepted by Boscombe Down on 24 October 1994. Test flying was recommenced without any changes to the aircraft FADEC system, or any additional operating limitations. Operating flying continued within the weight restrictions applied."
The MoD continued in relation to a memo of 3 June 1994 from Boscombe Down:
"The 3 June 94 memo was an internal MoD working level document, the last sentence of which reads: "Notwithstanding the claims made in Textron's white paper, the problem remains that the product has been shown to be unverifiable and is therefore unsuitable for its purpose".
But it is emphasised that this statement arose because Boscombe Down were unable to verify the software independently using their preferred analysis, which was neither mandated nor included in the development contract placed in 1985. Contractors had carried out their own validation and the fact that Boscombe Down could not verify the software using their preferred software should not be taken to imply that there was an inherent problem with its design."
A statement on behalf of the MoD to the FAI included the following:
"As to the allegation that some pilots refused to fly the Chinook HC Mk 2 during CA Release trials at Boscombe Down, this is an over simplification of what actually happened and perhaps it would be helpful if some of the background was explained. On 7 March 1994 during one of the specified FADEC checks on the ground, the engine of an HC Mk 2 flamed out. Trials at Boscombe Down were halted while the failure was investigated.
The failure was not due to a software fault and flying resumed on 20 April. However in the period up to 2 June 1994 there were a number of incidents involving airborne HC Mk 2 of which approximately 5 were due to FADEC malfunction whilst operating in normal mode. There had also been other incidents on the ground. The MoD(PE) Project Office sought explanations of the various incidents from the aircraft and engine manufacturers but in the absence of satisfactory explanations Boscombe Down suspended trials flying."
It is clear from these quotations that at the time of the crash there were still unresolved problems in relation to the FADEC system of Chinook Mk 2s."
end of excerpt
Much of this has appeared in previous posts, and John Blakeley's work on the engineering is splendid.
To the nub I would make three points:
1.) The Chinook Mk2 was not well understood at the time
2.) Those flying ZD576 had to assume they would lose an engine because they were restricted to an all-up weight that a single engine could cope with. This was, in part, because of an epidemic of real and false engine control warnings. (remember Rick Cook's last recorded conversation)
3.) The icing restrictions related to the oppressive CA release forced Jon Tapper and crew to elect no flyover of the Mull because the route toward WayPoint B/C (not A-B) would, in FOREcast, take them below the allowed 4C. Ironically, the limited icing clearance rules give helpful posthumous guidance: namely there was to be no overfly of the Mull because the aircraft was not up to it. Their approach transiting the water at low-level was therefore not questionable. In fact it was textbook.
So a reasonable question from a reasonable person is why risk all these passengers? The reason the Chinook was used to transport all these people was because it was the only aircraft handy to carry so many busy people, regardless of their importance, at the appointed hour.
The air transport order was taken at Army HQ, Lisburn. The total passenger manifest had been 27 but two passengers dropped out on the day. One has since died of natural causes. The other, I believe, is alive. Both cancelled for bona fide reasons, one for an ongoing security operation, the second for family reasons. He is a former RUC officer and does not talk about the issue publicly, including his views on the use of the Chinook.
With all that is known today, would ZD576 still have been used to transport VVIP pax? Surprisingly the answer in 1995 was yes, VVIPs were still flying in Mk2s.
"Lightning doesn't strike twice," a senior MoD official told me then. He was right, but with all the stories that have emerged about the confusion and shortcomings of the fleet in the years subsequent to the crash, I sense he could have just as easily have been wrong.
Location: Liverpool based Geordie, so calm down, calm down kidda!!
Antenna, thank you for your comprehensive recollections of that horrible period. I have tried to explain the mood of the crews that day and seem to have failed to impress some people as to the pressures they were put under. You have hit the nail on the head and have described it much better than I ever could. More importantly, you are factually correct if my memory serves me right. No rose tinted spectacles or theories of how things are 'most of the time', just facts. The icing clearance was not available and the crew were warned on that before flight, Jon told us that in the crewroom. After correspondance by PM with doubters on this forum, I actually started to doubt my own memories of the day. You mention things that I actually remember happening, thank you.......
As one reads through antenna's clear concise posts laying out the circumstances surrounding the in service operation of the HC2 fleet during the period preceding this tragedy I cannot but notice the awful similarities with a more recent accident. Another fleet over which very real concerns are felt by all those involved regarding its airworthiness, that is none the less kept flying because of operational pressures. It would seem that a repeat accident in almost identical circumstances has been avoided by sheer providence and the professionalism of the crew. Just as with the Chinooks, the issue of the Nimrod accident is not of serviceability but of airworthiness. That is the responsibility of the higher command of the RAF. That it has failed so spectacularly in that responsibility is becoming ever more apparent. It may not be the business of this thread, and for that I crave indulgence, but it must be an immediate and urgent priority that the provision of military airworthiness regulation be fundamentally and thoroughly reformed. IMHO that means the creation of a separate and independent authority, a la the CAA. Until that happens further avoidable accidents threaten. It is my belief that this should take priority over all else, even the public acknowledgement of the gross injustice done in this case and the reversal of the infamous verdict.
Two outstanding posts Antenna that really strike at the very core of this campaign and how anyone who has read them can still think with 100% certainty that the verdict was correct just beggars belief.
Antenna Thank you for another articulate response. In the light of what you say added to the wealth of information about the accident given on this Forum it is ever more incredible that such an extreme verdict could have been reached without most of this having been considered or made public. May I ask Brian Dixon what the state of play is at the moment in getting officialdom to review the case.
Boslandew, I will have to apologise for being somewhat cryptic in my reply to your question. The Campaign has been working for several months on a particular line of research. We are currently formulating the evidence and information that that work has unearthed. Add that to the fact that Parliament has just returned and you should get the general idea.
I regret that I cannot reveal the content of our work just yet, but as soon as the time is right, it will be made available to those with an interest in this injustice. I apologise that I can't be any more helpful at this time.
Is there any suggestion that in the RAF SH force of that time, pressure was put on aircrews generally by someone senior in rank to carry out sorties with which they were not entirely happy or in aircraft about which there was substantiated concern about its airworthiness?
Boslandew, with respect, if you read the full thread you should be able to make up your own mind on that.
However, a few things to ponder over:
The type had not completed the normal flight test procedure with Boscombe Down. The department's test pilots decided their example would not be flown again until the anomalies with the type's DECU software had been resolved.
As an indication of their level of confidence in the aircraft, their airframe was due maintenance at this time and they were asked to fly it from Boscombe Down to Odiham (a distance of just 31 nautical miles) so this could be carried out. They refused to fly it for the fifteen minutes or less that this would have taken and the unit test pilot from Odiham (Sqn Ldr Burke) was eventually despatched to fly it there.
Regarding pressure put on the crew to fly, Flt Lt Tapper had asked for a Mk1 to carry out this flight. He was not allowed that. NI was an operational theatre at that time.
Is there any info from the RCC with regards to the exact wx conditions, as seen through the flight deck windows of the Chinook, at the exact time of the accident as I think that would have far more relevance.
Brian Dixon Many thanks. Keep going. ShyTorque With respect, I have drawn my own conclusions from the thread. They are so at variance with my experience of the RAF helicopter force I was seeking further clarification. In an Air Corps Squadron I operated alongside the Wessex squadrons in Aldergrove between 1969 – 1975 and during that period, 28 Sqdn in Hong Kong. Our impression was that the RAF were limited by numerous and, to us, petty restrictions. That is not intended offensively, merely to indicate a considerable contrast with the apparent attitude of the‘90’s. I am left in little doubt of the shortcomings of the HC2, all the more marked because the civilian Chinook of the 80’s was well regarded by pilots. I do not wish in any way to imply that those shortcomings were less serious than they clearly were and I have direct experience of a similar situation. In the early seventies the Westland Scout which, you may recall, only had one engine, suffered a problem with cracks in the power-turbine so severe that it required an ultra-sonic test by an engineer every time the engine was stopped, say every hour. We flew because the word came down from on high that we would although under several limitations. However, even for operational flights in N Ireland, I do not recall any attempts to make an individual fly a sortie with which they were unhappy for other reasons. The implications have been that this was not the case at the time in question. I was trying to discover if there was any culture of putting pressure on pilots to undertake sorties where, in addition to the appalling problems with the aircraft, there were other elements with which they were not happy. To put it another way, perhaps more easily answerable, would there have been any doubts about operating that flight that day VFR in another type which for any reason was unable to operate IFR or were the reservations expressed about the flight purely because of the short-comings of the HC2?? Finally, for an RAF VFR passenger helicopter flight from Aldergrove to Inverness, what would have been the en route weather minima required. I appreciate ‘”clear of cloud and in sight of ground” but Met forecasts, Area forecasts and TAF’s give figures. Our civilian flights required a forecast enabling us to plan to fly at 500’ above ground and in 1 kilometre visibility. Would any such limits have applied? Regards Boslandew
Boslandew, I regret that I don't have the actual figures to hand these days and I am not going to try to guess at this late stage as I have been away from the NI operational theatre for some years. No doubt there is someone on the thread who could provide them; these figures might already have been quoted on here already in the past.
However the SH limits cloud and visibility were /are certainly considerably lower than your latter figures for civilian VFR flights. We were authorised to fly under power lines where necessary and used to do so quite routinely. Students were taught this procedure on the OCUs as a basic and essential skill; I recall the minimum limits for that procedure were 6/3/2 metres. That's six metres clearance above the aircraft, 3 metres laterally from the pylon and 2 metres agl, which should give you some idea of the sort of conditions we were expected to fly in, bearing in mind that one reason for not flying over a 200ft pylon could be a very low cloudbase.
ShyTorque Many thanks. Sounds much like groping round N Ireland/Germany in a Scout. I don't recall seeing any figures before on this thread. Pardon me for persisting a little further but would it have been routine for these techniques and clearances to be used on a non-tactical VFR flight with civilian passengers? Does/did the SH force differentiate between tactical/non-tactical flights? Knowing this would give a much clearer understanding of the flight in question. An engine runaway up, for example, while never much fun, would be far easier to deal with at 500 feet or even three hundred feet in the clear than it would be when groping around in such limits as you describe. Regards Boslandew
I don't recall any difference in the regulations/limits.
As a trained helicopter pilot yourself, you obviously also realise that an engine runaway up would need the collective to be rapidly raised to contain the rotor rpm within limits. This would result in a climb, a speed increase or a combination of both. Of course, no-one could prove whether or not this had or hadn't happened, as with any other theories or possibilities as to the cause of the accident.