BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
    You are in: UK: Scotland  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
 Monday, 27 January, 2003, 20:27 GMT
RAF man denies plane crash charges
Wreckage of one of the jets
Wreckage was found near the summit of Ben Macdhui
A military air traffic controller has appeared before a court martial over the crash of two US Air force jets in the Cairngorms.

The American pilots died when their aircraft crashed into Ben Macdhui on a training flight in bad weather in March 2001.

The case is unusual because it is very rare for a military air traffic controller to face court martial after a fatal accident.

Captain Kirk Jones
Captain Kirk Jones died in the accident
Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Williams, of RAF Leuchars in Fife, an air traffic controller with many years experience, denies charges of professional negligence.

The two US Air Force F15 fighter jets were on a low flying exercise, from RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, when they disappeared in the Cairngorms.

Mountain rescue teams battled through white-out conditions to find the wreckage near the summit of Ben Macdhui.

The bodies of the pilots, Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Hyvonen, 40, and Captain Kirk Jones, 27, were recovered within days.

The court martial opened on Monday in Helensburgh before seven senior RAF officers assisted by a judge advocate.

Not guilty plea

It is alleged that Flt Lt Williams told Lt Col Hyvonen to descend to 4,000ft when the minimum safe altitude in that area was 6,500ft.

The descent is said to have caused the deaths of the two pilots.

Flt Lt Williams faces an alternative charge of negligently performing in his duties as an air traffic controller.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Lt Col Kenneth Hyvonen
Lt Col Hyvonen was the lead pilot
RAF Group Captain Alistair McGrigor, prosecuting, said Flt Lt Williams had "created a false environment and lulled the air crew into a false sense of security".

He said the air traffic controller had responded "inappropriately" by telling Lt Col Hyvonen, the lead pilot of the formation, to descend to 4,000ft.

Group Captain McGrigor conceded that the responsibility for avoiding other air traffic and terrain rested with the pilots.

However, he alleged that the advice to descend to 4,000ft was a significant contribution to the crash.

Compassionate leave

The court martial heard that Lt Col Hyvonen had used an American phrase "minimum vectoring altitude" which Flt Lt Williams had not queried.

Group Captain McGrigor also said that the crash happened on the day Flt Lt Williams returned to duty after two weeks of compassionate leave following the death of his father.

He said the radar equipment had been in full working order and that the aircraft was fully serviceable on take off.

The hearing continues.


Click here to go to BBC Suffolk
See also:

14 Mar 02 | Scotland
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Scotland stories are at the foot of the page.


 E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Scotland stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes