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hercs inquest

Old 23rd Apr 2008, 15:20
  #1 (permalink)  
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Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: London, UK
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hercs inquest

anybody know any good RAF experts who know about Hercs?
Best wishes
Ian Shoesmith
BBC News
By Simon Evans, PA
An RAF aviator was silenced for speaking out about safety fears on
planes three years before 10 men died when one crashed in Iraq, he told an
inquest today.
Squadron Leader Christopher Seal, a former flight commander with 47 Squadron,
said he wrote a "lessons identified" memo - referred to despairingly as
"lessons ignored" - after returning from serving in Afghanistan in 2002.
Among his concerns was that ESF (explosion-suppressant foam) should be fitted
to the
Hercules wing--located fuel tanks.
On January 30, 2005, an RAF
Hercules was hit in a tank by small arms fire near
Baghdad. The tank exploded, blowing off a wing, killing the 10 men on board.
It was only after this that ESF began to be fitted on RAF
Hercules aircraft.
Mr Seal was presented today with documents from the Defence Evaluation and
Research Agency (DERA) dating back to 1993 about UK research into ESF, which US
Hercules planes have had since the Vietnam War.
One DERA document, from 1994, said the UK was "lagging behind the US" on the
Mr Seal said he never knew about this research.
"I'm gob-smacked, astonished," he told the inquest into the death of the ten
men in Trowbridge, Wilts, on seeing the document.
He said he only found out about ESF after a US pilot told him his aircraft had
Mr Seal sent his 'lessons identified' document on November 12, 2002, with a
letter described today as "sadly prophetic".
In it he wrote: "I appreciate that a number of points are politically
sensitive or already being worked but it does no harm to have lessons identified
written down that may be of use for higher-level staff work or, ultimately, a
ready-made history lesson for those who follow in our footsteps."
Mr Seal said, however, that by the time he sent this, he had already "got into
trouble" for voicing his concerns about other
Hercules safety issues, among
them infra-red counter measures and night flying tactics.
While in Afghanistan earlier in 2002, he emailed safety concerns to his
superiors in theatre and in Britain.
Although well-received in theatre, he said he felt those higher up the chain of
command were ignoring the matters.
On his return to the UK he emailed all his superiors right up to the head of
Strike Command - a measure he described as "a cry for help in the dark".
He was subsequently reprimanded for going above his station and "censored"
thereafter, he said.
He expressed frustration today at the "convoluted" nature of obtaining
crucial safety modifications, which involved long-winded chains of command.
"There is a difference between lessons identified and lessons learned - these
were known throughout my tenure as lessons ignored," he told the court.
Mr Seal said that because RAF
Hercules had for so many years been so reliable,
many having been shot in the fuel tanks without exploding, RAF crews had
developed a "false sense of security."
He said he believed the time the aircraft would need to be out of action and
money were the main factors why ESF was not fitted to
He later found out that the cost of fitting ESF was just #600,000 per aircraft
and that each would be sidelined for just four or five weeks.
Bernard Collaery, for Kellie Merritt, the widow of Flt Lt Paul Pardoel, said
his client wished to "commend" Mr Seal and "hoped others would be as
assertive about the needs of their men."
Mr Seal replied: "All I can say is it does not do your career any good."
The victims based at RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire were: RAF 47 Squadron's Flt Lt
David Stead, the pilot, 35; Flt Lt Andrew Smith, 25, the co-pilot; Master
Engineer Gary Nicholson, 42; Flt Sgt Mark Gibson, 34, Australian airman Paul
Pardoel, 35, a navigator; and from Lyneham's Engineering Wing, Chief Technician
Richard Brown, 40, an avionics specialist; Sergeant Robert O'Connor, 38, an
engineering technician; and Corporal David Williams, 37, a survival equipment
fitter, a passenger. Acting L/Cpl Steven Jones, 25, of Fareham, Hampshire, a
Royal Signals soldier, was also part of the crew.
Sqn Ldr Patrick Marshall, 39, from Strike Command Headquarters, RAF High
Wycombe, was another passenger on the
231342 APR 08
shoey1976 is offline  
Old 23rd Apr 2008, 15:34
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Why isn't this information (vulnerability) classified?
lomapaseo is offline  
Old 23rd Apr 2008, 15:39
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Have a look at the Hercules Inquest thread on the Mil forum. There is a plethora of sensible and IMO justifiably aggrieved comment on there.
Dan D'air is offline  
Old 23rd Apr 2008, 16:42
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anybody know any good RAF experts who know about Hercs?
I'm sure many do, however for the reasons given by MR Seal - "All I can say is it does not do your career any good." I doubt you will find any willing to talk on the record.
nonemmet is offline  
Old 23rd Apr 2008, 17:53
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Serving officers won't talk - but maybe an ex-RAF Hercules pilot, no longer bound by a reserve commission might?

Good luck if you post in the mil forum, Ian, they tend not to like journalists there (more so than the rest of PPRuNe)...

wasaspacecadet is offline  
Old 24th Apr 2008, 13:45
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Ian, you might like to look here and here.

scroggs is offline  
Old 24th Apr 2008, 14:13
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Ian, I generally applaud the way you work, but please be extremely careful not to unwittingly worsen the risk for our service men and women or give others the opportunity to do so on this one. I was quite surprised at some of the overtness in the threads Scroggs linked to - maybe there's already some pseudo military involvement in those threads?

I know nothing about these things but I assume operationally we need the Herc so much that we can't easily do without it, so until that changes, surely almost everything still secret about it should remain secret?

Last edited by slip and turn; 24th Apr 2008 at 14:34.
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