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Monday, 15 October, 2001, 19:26 GMT 20:26 UK
Former pilots reveal Chinook doubts
Chinook helicopter
Pilot "negligence" was blamed for the 1994 crash
Three retired pilots have told an inquiry by the House of Lords into the Chinook helicopter crash on the Mull of Kintyre, that they doubted whether the pilots were to blame for the disaster.

Royal Air Force personnel and technical experts gave evidence before peers as the new inquiry entered its next stage.

The accident in 1994 claimed the lives of 29 people and is the worst peacetime disaster to befall the RAF.

A military board of inquiry found the two pilots, flight lieutenants Richard Cook and Jonathan Tapper guilty of "gross negligence", a verdict which has always been disputed by the men's families and supporters.

Lord Chalfont
Lord Chalfont heads the five man committee

The new inquiry by a House of Lords select committee is investigating whether the original findings were correct.

The five-man committee, which is chaired by former Scottish appeal court judge, Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle, is expected to complete its report by the end of January next year.

Retired pilots and captains Ron MacDonald, Richard Hadlow and Ralph Cohn, presented their own report into the crash.

Mr MacDonald said he originally became interested in the case after being contacted by Channel Four news.

He told the committee: "Channel Four called me and asked me if I would study all the relevant investigation reports into the accident.

Wreckage of the crash
The crash claimed the lives of 29 people

"I could not understand how conclusions of gross negligence had been arrived at because of the serious doubt that existed."

In a prepared statement read out at the beginning of his evidence, Mr MacDonald said: "The Ministry of Defence would like us all to believe - without any doubt whatsoever - that these two highly motivated special forces pilots, plus a senior helicopter crewman ignored all of their training and responsibilities with reckless abandon and negligence allowing their aircraft to fly directly into high ground.

"However they appear to have ignored that fact that Flt Lt Tapper had concerns about the helicopter and had requested a change to a Mark 1 Chinook.

"No accident is ever caused by a single factor."

Westminster correspondent David Porter reports
"A fatal accident inquiry failed to find a cause for the accident"
See also:

17 Oct 01 | Scotland
Chinook inquiry judge named
30 Apr 01 | Scotland
Peers back Chinook crash inquiry
06 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Fresh Chinook crash inquiry agreed
30 Nov 00 | Scotland
Blair vetoes new Chinook inquiry
06 Jul 00 | Scotland
Minister accused over Chinook crash
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