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Monday, 11 March, 2002, 10:44 GMT
Pilots praised over Tornado crash
Tornado
The pilot and co-pilot escaped ejected from the plane
The crew of an RAF Tornado which crashed into the North Sea near a nuclear power station have been praised for their actions in an official report.

Investigators have concluded that engine failure was the cause of the accident near the Torness plant in East Lothian in November 1999.

In an accident summary, the Ministry of Defence commended the two crew members for demonstrating "exceptional levels of airmanship and awareness in the most adverse of conditions".

RAF Tornado
Engine failure is blamed for the crash
The pilots, based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, were injured after they ejected from the 20m aircraft, which was destroyed by the impact with the water.

One of the airmen suffered spinal injuries and his colleague sustained facial injuries.

The report said they had ensured that the Tornado was clear of the power station before abandoning the aircraft.

After landing the two men used a mobile phone to call for help and then walked to a farmhouse, where they were given tea and biscuits.

They were picked up 15 minutes later in the village of Birnie Knowes and taken to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary for treatment.

Salvage operation

The F3 Tornado had been taking part in a low-level, night-time navigation exercise, flying from the air force base at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.

It caught fire about seven miles south of the power station.

The aircraft's accident data recorder was recovered, during a lengthy salvage operation, along with 80% of the wreckage.

An examination of this data suggested that a parts failure had led to the blaze.

As a result, engine modifications have been recommended by investigators.

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC Scotland's Nigel Robson reports
"The plane was destroyed when it hit the water"
See also:

23 Feb 00 | UK
1bn jets 'unfit for combat'
17 Nov 99 | Scotland
Two escape as Tornado crashes
13 Nov 98 | FORCES AND FIREPOWER
Tornado - Britain's multi-task bomber
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