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Air Cadets grounded?

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Air Cadets grounded?

Old 13th Jun 2016, 11:17
  #2641 (permalink)  
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The history is very important if one is to learn and avoid recurrence. The important point in all the cases we discuss is that lessons were ignored, so we had recurrence. This gliding case is nothing new. It is caused by precisely the same failings as every other case. Yet again, MoD tries to compartmentalise, and people are falling for it.

Yes, the mess was inherited. But one needs to know when it started, why and under whose orders (all well known and notified to Haddon-Cave, Ministers and the MoD), because one cannot simply draw a line and say "move forward". You are left with huge holes in the audit trail. This is precisely the mistake the MAA made, although at first we thought they were doing the right thing by ordering audits of the project teams. But, surely, the audit of the gliding team revealed no safety case? If not, then those who conducted it are incompetent. If it was revealed, then a conscious decision has been made to gamble with Air Cadet lives. Which is it to be, because either way sackings should follow?

I think we need to read between AVM Turner's lines. The man is probably apoplectic. I wonder if his article, admitting there is no safety case, is laying down a marker. Don't blame me. It is a pity Gp Capt Baber didn't say the same thing after being named by Haddon-Cave. I would also like to think AVM Turner is sending out a message to the very top - whoever thought the MAA was the answer asked a bloody stupid question.

What nails MoD here is the timeframe. Not just 6 years since the MAA knew. The MAA was initially formed by combining existing departments. They simply re-badged the people who had overseen the problems for 20 years. If they knew, then they shouldn't have been given the same job. If they didn't know, they were incompetent and no amount of training would make them suitable. This is utterly damning; heads should roll and Knighthoods and CBs taken away.
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Old 13th Jun 2016, 17:25
  #2642 (permalink)  
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The last I heard in fairly knowledgeable circles was that they were going to use a disc cutter and/or other power tools to scrap the airframes that were deemed B.E.R. This would then void the embarrassment of them re-appearing in a few months in a civvy club in good order !
And just what are they intending to do with this (large) pile of scrap plastic? As I 've already pointed out they can't stick it in the dustbin and hope the council can deal with it (illegal to dump it in land fill), a fire on the corner of the airfield at Syerston is likely to be noticed and the specalist waste disposal firm who can dispose of it in their fancy incinerator will be laughing all the way to the bank. I suppose they could be offered as museum pieces, but are there enough museums that will want one?
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Old 13th Jun 2016, 17:37
  #2643 (permalink)  
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A very close watching brief needs to be kept on these airframes, if scrapping of unserviceable aircraft by any means to avoid institutional embarrassment is the case.

As far as I am concerned, any serviceable aircraft at all is pretty much critical national infrastructure - we cannot tell what kind of future leader will get their first flight in an aircraft and base their future decisions accordingly.

I can be challenged on this, but my first impression is that Vigis have been exceptionally well-cared for by their previous users and represent a good buy for clubs and syndicates. Their destruction merely to save face would top everything else so far - after all, we need some air-minded young people...

PS I'm not after one, huge bill inbound for our syndicate's aircraft.
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Old 13th Jun 2016, 20:12
  #2644 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by POBJOY View Post
ARC Rumour has it that Serco not 'assisting' SS in speedy recovery.

Those that 'can not' or actually do anything seem to be telling those who can how to do it !!

Unfortunately no one on the customer side who has any idea about anything anymore.
I'd heard that too. Rejecting recovered airframes for imaginary faults (eg grease the wrong colour so they said it wasn't to spec - when it was just a different make). Almost as if there were sour grapes.
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Old 13th Jun 2016, 23:04
  #2645 (permalink)  
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Serco 'not helping the stuation'

TM Methinks once this referendum is out of the way certain MP's need to be brought on the case to examine the 'public spend' issue here.
This will of course include not getting a return on surplus airframes.
On the basis that all previous ATC machines have been available for purchase how can they make a case for doing anything different now.

Suggest careful watch made on 'storage facility' to prevent unfortunate fire !!!!

This is so out in the open now and there are plenty of qualified engineers out there (plus civvy Grob machines) that there is no way they can fudge an excuse to destroy them. In fact it would be a good idea for SS to make it known they will take the lot,and that will be a difficult arrangement to argue against for the Government. Remember 'ALL' the expertise is outside of the MOD/RAF so they can hardly make a case themselves.
SERCO need to be sitting in front of a Commons committee explaining why we are in this situation and how much compensation they are going to pay !!!!
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Old 14th Jun 2016, 07:36
  #2646 (permalink)  
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Plenty of people need to be sitting in front of a Commons Committee. But in my book (and it's just mine) I wouldn't be starting with SERCO.

I'd start with CAS, and I'd like the MPs to ask him for how many years the RAF were flying children in aircraft that were not, by definition, airworthy. (If you don't have a full auditable record of the material state of an aircraft, and don't know what the current configuration is, then it's not airworthy). By the way, for what it's worth (and thats not much) I'd guess around ten years at least.

I'd then follow up and ask him how he knows that the rest of his aircraft aren't in a similar condition. But that's just me being picky.

I'd then like to see them get ACAS up and ask him who cleared the aircraft for service - who signed off on the RTS in the first place, and on what evidence. And how often he reviewed that release, and on what evidence, and how recently.

Then it would Chief Engineer RAF, to explain to the MPs how his staff made such a poor job of carrying out their mandated supervision and quality assurance functions. As admitted by the MoD.

Then ex OC 3FTS for the MPs to ask him what HIS engineering staff were doing from 2010 to 2014.

Then it would be the turn of Chief Defence Materiel for the MPs to ask him what his staffs were doing to properly support the aircraft. and ensure that they were being kept in an airworthy state. If DE&S placed the contract with Serco, I'd like the MPs to ask CDM whether the contract was checked by DE&S's own in house cost investigations team before it was placed. (Come to that, it would be nice to know exactly who placed what contracts associated with the ATC fleet).

After all that, I'd like to see the MPs ask SERCO about the contract that they signed, how it was supervised, and what controls the RAF and the MoD (DES) placed on them. And what rates they charged and how much profit they made.

I must declare an (old) interest. In a previous appointment I was responsible for supervising a Serco contract to carry out deep maintenance on front line aircraft - we had some initial issues when the contract was starting up, but because I had a team of experienced engineers to help me, we were able to get a very good service out of Serco. Contractorisation does not equal problems.

I am afraid that in suspect that there will be a determined PR effort by the RAF to shift the focus of interest on to the contractors. This is a full blown scandal and people will be running for cover.

Best regards as ever to those fixing the fleet and getting the Cadets safely back in the air,


Last edited by Engines; 14th Jun 2016 at 08:38.
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Old 14th Jun 2016, 09:46
  #2647 (permalink)  
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Munster Van Gelder Winches????

I'd start with CAS, and I'd like the MPs to ask him for how many years the RAF were flying children in aircraft that were not, by definition, airworthy. (If you don't have a full auditable record of the material state of an aircraft, and don't know what the current configuration is, then it's not airworthy). By the way, for what it's worth (and thats not much) I'd guess around ten years at least.
Methinks it would be easier to get a Van Gelder winch through the eye of a needle than see the above happen

.......oh, I wonder what has happened to the Van Gelder winches, are they rusting in the corner of a disused airfield somewhere?

This is what they used to look like

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Old 14th Jun 2016, 10:28
  #2648 (permalink)  
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FC - they are being sold off through the MOD vehicle disposal contractor, Witham Specialist Vehicles at Honeypot Lane, Colsterworth, Lincolnshire.

This is the old North Witham airfield, so yes, you are right, they are rusting in the corner of a disused airfield.
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Old 14th Jun 2016, 13:13
  #2649 (permalink)  
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Engines My point is that as the 'contractor' they have to accept responsibility for the situation even if they are not fully at fault.

If they had to justify the situation before a committee then they could bring out the lack of control from the MOD/RAF as a 'circumstance' and the committee could then call on the 'control body' to explain themselves. The problem being i suspect the various 'people' will have retired by now and therefore there is little chance of recourse.
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Old 14th Jun 2016, 15:54
  #2650 (permalink)  
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I understand where you are coming from, and yes, I'd be wanting to make sure that Serco had carried out (or not carried out) their responsibilities.

The point I would make is that the contractor is only responsible for what they are contracted to do. I don't have sight of the contract, but I think it is a fairly safe bet that the RAF kept the overall responsibility for the material state of the aircraft, and their airworthiness.

This comes down to supervision of the contracted activity, and the application of absolutely normal quality assurance procedures - such as regular checks on aircraft condition, checks on aircraft condition when going into the contractors facility, and checks when coming out. Formal agreement on content of work packages, including modifications, and inspections to make sure that the mods have been done.

Oh, and regular checks on all documentation, especially airworthiness related records, and proper management of all the records.

The RAF and the MoD can't walk away from these. Bottom line - if you have the aircraft on your register, and sign off the RTS, you are the responsible person.

Best regards as sever to those holding the babies,

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Old 14th Jun 2016, 16:23
  #2651 (permalink)  
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With regard to documentation, isn't one of the issues that there is no maintenance history beyond three years old? as that was mandated by the MAA? why only keep records for three years? is it because if something goes wrong outside of that timeline then no one can be held accountable.

And as far as maintenance of these gliders and motorgliders goes, all the MAA had to state was that they're to be maintained in line with EASA for the aircraft type and the manufacturer's service and repair instructions.

Civvy aircraft have their engine and airframe logbooks going back to the time they left the factory - way beyond three years.

It really ought to be the many parents of the cadets asking the questions to the PM as, as we've seen, asking MP's gets the usual answer that everything's in hand - several thousand parents writing to the PM and (copying national newspapers) asking why their children have been flown in aircraft with a dodgy maintenance history is a surefire way of bringing it in to the public domain.

If the Vigilants are to be disposed of they would realise 15K-30K each, 20-30 sold would go some way to paying for the Vikings to be 'recovered'.

Referring to my previous post - anybody up for a lottery on when Vigilants and Vikings will be disposed of because ultimately that's what's going to happen.
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Old 14th Jun 2016, 17:12
  #2652 (permalink)  
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Engines. Excellent as ever.

On 11 January 2000 a submission was made to Deputy Chief Executive of DPA (now part of DE&S). It broke down the entire process into the roles of each post holder; then the current status. Not one single function was carried out properly. Some were fragmented, many not done at all. DCE did not reply or do anything. Mr David Gould if you're wondering.

Don't hold your breath about CDM. He was tasked in January 2011 by Minister for the Armed Forces, Nick Harvey, to respond to formal proposals that would have resurrected the functions. He did nothing and, because convention dictates new Ministers don't (officially) know what went on under their predecessors, he was allowed to get away with it because Harvey left post. This is what makes any campaign difficult. The continuity is in the media and they can be your friend if you find the right trigger. Gambling with the lives of 16 year olds could do it. Try the Guardian (Norton-Taylor), Independent (Owen) (edit - sorry, he's now freelance) or Sunday Times Insight (Calvert). Don't go into too much detail. 1. Mention Nimrod Review and poor safety case. 2. It's got worse, as there isn't one for gliders. 3. The gamble. Best of luck.

Last edited by tucumseh; 14th Jun 2016 at 18:43.
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Old 14th Jun 2016, 18:10
  #2653 (permalink)  
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I might be able to help clarify retention of documents here, but not much, I'll try to explain.

As far as I can see (and I'm very happy to be corrected) the main reference in the new regs for retention of documents seems to be found at RA 4813, which in turn calls out MAP-01 Chapter 7.6. The key bit seems to be 'Category A' documents, which have to be retained for the life of the aircraft plus 5 years. No other categories have mandated calendar retention periods, but rather confusingly some Cat B docs have to be treated as Cat A - this includes records of repairs. So why not make them Cat A?

There is some nonsense here, such as the non-retention of completed Lim Log and ADF entries. Yes, they are all superseded when transferred or cancelled. But, if you are trying to find out what happened to an aircraft inservice, these provide an excellent 'diary' of the aircraft history. Same for Maintenance Logs. Try working through a stack of MWOs some time.

This set of regs is, to me, an excellent example of what can be done when too many people have too much time on their hands to write regulations. I can absolutely assure you that had I submitted this pot mess to my boss for approval and signature, I would have been given what I believe is called an 'interview without coffee'. Seven overlapping categories?? Give me a break.

However, this is (probably) a moot point, as we don't actually know when the documents that related to Air Cadet aircraft airworthiness were shredded. The MoD answer carefully avoids specifying that. Were they disposed of under the new MAA regs, or the old ones? If it was the old ones, a simple guide was 'retain if it could be required downstream'. Any and all files that were assessed as 'Airworthiness files' were specially marked and controlled as classified documents in separate storage areas. I can absolutely assure you that this simple and effective practice is no longer followed in many DE&S PTs.

You are right on the money about the best way to apply pressure. Parents need to be asking why the RAF was not keeping their children safe.

Hope this helps a little,

Best Regards as ever to those working through the paperwork

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Old 14th Jun 2016, 19:57
  #2654 (permalink)  
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Engines, a very good post #2646, Sir. I would suggest that others read it and then reread it. That is where the responsibility lies now, in the RAF High Command, and where it lay at the very beginning of this scandal almost 30 years ago. That is how long it has been allowed to fester, infecting fleets and systems ever since.

Of course other VSOs have been before Commons committees before, and purported to state as fact that which was merely conjecture, and to state as truth that which was not. Here we have the real issue. The maintenance of Airworthiness is a very technical and defined set of procedures that few are familiar with, and many can thus be seriously misled by those who choose to do so. You can brief members of committees to your hearts content, but in the main little of it will stick, and a determined witness will simply point the finger at a junior (in an organisation where Air Commodores and below are seen as expendable) and regretfully suggest that there is the place to look for any failings. Add to that the default assumption that VSOs are men and women of honour whose word is above suspicion and you get the utter failure of HoC's and HoL's Committees, Coroners Courts, FAIs, etc to uncover the scandal of UK Military Airworthiness.

That is why I call for an MAA and MilAAIB to be made independent of the MOD and of each other. That will offer some protection at least from the stranglehold that the RAF Star Chamber has over Airworthiness Regulation and Air Accident Investigation now. If any one person in the RAF leadership spoke out about the subversion that destroyed the UK Military Airworthiness system, and owned up to its subsequent cover up, then I might be more flexible in my attitude. None have, and after all this time I doubt they ever will. If the RAF leadership won't grasp this nettle then it must be grasped for them. That would then add humiliation to the shame that has already been placed upon a proud Service. It deserves better than that, much better!
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Old 15th Jun 2016, 10:01
  #2655 (permalink)  
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RAF not keeping the children safe

Engines This is what makes the whole episode so sad. The VGS and the 'Schools' before them operated a system that was both simple and safe. In fact I doubt if there is a flying training system anywhere in the world that had such a good record. The fleet was not going to fall out of the sky and the schools would not have operated them if there was a risk as they had decades of experience behind them that kept a close watch on things at the coal face.

If the same level of capability and care was present in the full time paid system we would not be in this state now. I would say that system was safe; but only because those at the sharp end knew their business.
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Old 22nd Jun 2016, 15:52
  #2656 (permalink)  
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Gentlemen ...

Further to my Post 2596/Page 130, I have sent the following letter to my MP requesting clarification on points made by the Minister in his letter of the 16th May 2016.

My eMail was dated 16th June 2016 ... I delayed posting until I received positive confirmation that my MP had received my communication.




Dear Mr. Merrimen,

Air Cadet Glider Fleet

Firstly, I’d like to thank both you and the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for your replies to my original correspondence dated 14th April 2016. As invited by you, I have now considered the Minister’s comments and feel I must respond and seek further answers from him, via your office.

The MOD has invested a significant sum of Public Money in a fleet of some 146 Grob Viking Gliders and Grob Vigilant Motor Gliders for use by the Air Cadet Organisation. I think I am correct in assuming these aircraft are subject to Military airworthiness regulations. The Minister mentioned the ‘Configuration’ state and I understand this to mean that being both ‘Correct and Maintained’ is a prerequisite to the aircraft being considered airworthy. It is equally important that the information about the 'Material' state of the aircraft is collected and retained, and I am disappointed that in this case the records would seem to have been destroyed. May I ask when this was discovered and what action is being taken to prevent recurrence?

Turning now to related Public Domain information, I note from the minutes of the Public Accounts Committee, which sat in March 1999, some eight or nine years after the Release to Service of the Grob Viking and Vigilant, that the question of a lack of ‘Configuration Control’ is publicly aired.


So when the Minister mentions ‘Configuration Control Discrepancies’ in his third paragraph, I feel compelled to ask what protocol was adopted for the Air Cadet Glider Fleet from its inception? Particularly so, as some limited research of Public Domain information makes uncomfortable reading on the issue of a wider lack of ‘Configuration Control’ within other MOD aircraft fleets. For example, was the configuration ever controlled, or was the practice cancelled at some point? If so, by whom?

Similarly, when the Viking and Vigilant aircraft were Released to Service, was there a valid Safety Case? If not, why was the aircraft released? If there was, when was it cancelled or withdrawn, and who approved this?

What is concerning here is that the PAC heard evidence from MOD’s Chief of Defence Procurement admitting poor Configuration Control in other aircraft. See specifically the Q&A response to Q35 on the above URL link. On a prima facie basis, this appears to have been a serious failing by the MOD. It therefore seems clear that over a period of time from the beginning of the 90’s, the original ‘Safety Case’ for the fleet became progressively invalid, even under pre MAA Regulations. If this is the case, then those responsible need to be held to account. I have read, for example, the Nimrod Review, which would seem to articulate similar failings.

In the above context, I note the comment made recently by Air Vice Marshal Andrew Turner CBE, MA, MSc, BA, FRAeS FCMI, RAF, AOC 22 Group, in his paper published by the RAeS in their ‘Aerospace’ magazine.

"It was simply not an option to continue to operate without a Safety Case"

So yes, while the Minister is quite correct in saying ‘The safety of Air Cadets must remain paramount’ and ‘Any doubt regarding the airworthiness of an aircraft in which they fly is unacceptable’, it would appear that for many years MOD has not implemented its own regulations to ensure the safety of the Air Cadets. My question, as a layman, is how can an entire fleet be without a Safety Case? On the face of it, this is worse than the Nimrod, which actually had a safety case, albeit invalid.

Finally, whilst I won’t presume to advise the Minister, even if the MOD/RAF may have disputes with its contractors, it seems odd to me for the ‘contributory parties’ to ‘discuss the apportionment of respective liabilities’ as mentioned in the Ministers letter. That, in my opinion, should be done by an independent arbiter and the outcome made public, as we are talking of Public Money.

I look forward to receiving the Ministers reply,

Yours sincerely,
I will update IDC.


Last edited by CoffmanStarter; 10th Jul 2016 at 12:17. Reason: Refresh URL Link
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Old 22nd Jun 2016, 16:01
  #2657 (permalink)  
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Well done Coff
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Old 22nd Jun 2016, 21:49
  #2658 (permalink)  
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Well done that man, it may take a long time but hopefully this is the road toward some real answers.
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Old 23rd Jun 2016, 11:06
  #2659 (permalink)  
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Great letter, Coffman. Well done. The reply will be interesting for what it doesn't say, of course.
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Old 23rd Jun 2016, 11:33
  #2660 (permalink)  
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Thanks for that link Coff.

Does the HoC debate not show the real elephant in the room - finding the funding for LITS?

Last edited by Mandator; 23rd Jun 2016 at 11:55. Reason: Clarification
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