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BBC Scotland's Caroline Moyes reports
"The Merlin is anti-submarine surveillance helicopter"
 real 56k

RAF spokesman Mike Mulford
"The Jaguar pilot has baled out"
 real 28k

Commander Phil Shaw of the Royal Navy
"We've had the aircraft towed into shallow water"
 real 28k

Friday, 27 October, 2000, 18:25 GMT 19:25 UK
Military aircraft crash
The Merlin floats upside down
The downed Merlin will be salvaged as part of an inquiry
Investigations are under way into crashes involving two military aircraft in Scotland.

Five men were rescued after a Royal Navy Merlin helicopter ditched in the Inner Sound between Applecross in Wester Ross and the island of Raasay, near Skye.

An hour later, an RAF Jaguar fighter bomber crashed five miles north-east of Dumfries, on open hillside between the town and Lockerbie. The aircraft was from RAF Coltishall in Norfolk.

Dumfries and Galloway Police said the pilot ejected from the jet about 1100BST. He was treated at the scene but his injuries are not thought to be serious.

The Jaguar is understood to have hit a flock of seagulls then lost power in both engines.

Lockerbie was devastated by the Pan Am Flight 103 crash in 1988 in which 270 people died.

The crew have some minor injuries and are shocked. I think you would be shocked too if you were unceremoniously dumped in the water

Lt Commander Paul Crudgington
The five crew on the Merlin were rescued from the sea by fishermen Kenny and Dickie Livingstone, from Shieldaig, Wester Ross.

The men, all wearing survival suits, had been in the water for about 20 minutes before the brothers arrived on the scene in their creel boat.

Four of the crew were taken to the Mackinnon Memorial Hospital at Broadford, Skye, for tests. The fifth was airlifted to the Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway with back injuries.

The helicopter was from the 700 M Initial Flying Trials unit based at RNAS Culdrose in west Cornwall.

Sonar trials

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the crew were carrying out trials on sonar equipment at the time of the crash, shortly before 1000BST.

After visiting the men at Broadford Hospital, Lt Cdr Paul Crudgington, from Culdrose, said: "We are up here doing trials for about two weeks and the aircraft had been flying for about 30 minutes and had been in hover for about 10 minutes.

"It suffered some sort of failure which will be investigated. I am in no position to say what happened but I can say that the pilot did very well in the circumstances.

Crash site location
"The Merlin crashed into the water and inverted, and the crew got out.

"The crew have some minor injuries and are shocked. I think you would be shocked too if you were unceremoniously dumped in the water.

"I do not think luck comes in to it because they all will have had formal training in escaping from aircraft in this sort of situation.

"It is not something that you would expect, but when it happens you are ready for it."

Commander Phil Shaw, who is in charge of all Merlin operations at Culdrose, said plans for a salvage operation were being drawn up.

'Mistake to speculate'

He said: "We've had a few reports in but we are waiting for the final reports before we can be absolutely accurate on what went on.

"But as I understand it they had a problem which enatiled them having to put the aircraft down onto the water and we are now awaiting the recovery of the aircraft and obviously statements from the crew to try and ascertain what went on.

"I think it would be a mistake to try to speculate at this stage."

He went on: "We've had the aircraft towed into shallow water and we've actually put it on the seabed at the moment.

"We can then recover it in a controlled fashion when the weather dies down, we understand the weather forecast is not too brilliant for a salvage operation over the next 24 hours or so."

Aircraft role

The state-of-the-art aircraft is a replacement for the Sea King helicopter.

The Merlin's main roles are anti-surface ship and submarine warfare, tracking and surveillance, amphibious operations and search and rescue missions.

It operates from Type 22 and Type 23 Class frigates, Invincible Class aircraft carriers and various amphibious warfare ships and land bases.

Merlin carrying out a sonar trial
The Merlin was carrying out sonar trials
The first Merlin, designated HM Mk 1, entered service with the UK Royal Navy in December 1998, at Culdrose.

It is understood that 58 Merlin helicopters are on order from GKN Westland for the British military.

Forty-two of these are for the Royal Navy - of which about half have been delivered. Deliveries of 16 Merlins for the RAF have begun.

Each helicopter can cost between 40m and 50m.

There have been three crashes of pre-production Merlin prototypes in recent years - one at Yeovil, and two in Italy.

One of the Italian crashes involved several fatalities.

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27 Oct 00 | Scotland
Narrow escape as jet crashes
24 Jul 00 | Scotland
Future of chopper base uncertain
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