Page last updated at 14:39 GMT, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Military aviation body set up after fatal Nimrod crash

A new military body to be set up: From BBC Democracy Live

An independent military aviation authority is to be set up after the fatal RAF Nimrod crash in Afghanistan, the defence secretary has said.

The organisation will begin regulating military aviation activities from next April, Bob Ainsworth announced.

The move comes after a critical report into the Nimrod crash, in which 14 men from RAF Kinloss in Moray died in 2006.

Two senior air force officers named in the report are being investigated by RAF police, Mr Ainsworth added.

An inquiry into the crash of the Nimrod three years ago found that it was caused by a fuel leak and was "preventable".

The spy plane blew up shortly after refuelling, killing everyone on board.

Despite the efforts of many hard-working men and women in the MoD and private sector to deliver safe aircraft, the result was simply not good enough
Bob Ainsworth, Defence Secretary

A subsequent review by Charles Haddon-Cave QC, published in October, accused the MoD of sacrificing safety to cut costs.

It said the crash occurred because of a "systemic breach" of the military covenant.

And a safety review of the Nimrod MR2 carried out by the MoD, BAE Systems and QinetiQ was branded a "lamentable job".

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Ainsworth reiterated his apology to the families of the victims.

He told MPs: "The Nimrod XV230 was lost as a result of a number of failings in the MoD and industry over a period of some three decades.

"Opportunities to discover and avoid the dangers, particularly during development of the safety case, were missed.

KEY ACTIONS
RAF police investigating two senior air force officers named in the report
Creation of an independent authority to regulate military aviation
Review of contract conditions between the Ministry of Defence and industry

"In part this was due to specific errors. It was also because the MoD's aviation safety processes had become too cumbersome, complex and lacking in transparency and accountability.

"Despite the efforts of many hard-working men and women in the MoD and private sector to deliver safe aircraft, the result was simply not good enough."

He said the aim of establishing the authority was to ensure "the highest safety standards".

It would be led by a three-star officer and staffed by 250 people, who would regulate, audit and assure all military aviation activities, he said.

Review

The two serving officers under military police investigation did not currently hold positions related to safety, MPs were told.

The defence secretary also said a review was under way into contract conditions between the MoD and industry.

HOW THE NIMROD CRASHED
Nimrod
1. Nimrod refuels in mid-air
2. Possible fuel over-flow from number one tank
3. Second possible source of leak is pipe couplings behind number seven tank
4. Leaked fuel contacts hot pipe and ignites
5. Fire and smoke alarms triggered in bomb bay and under floor by sensitive wiring

Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox welcomed the response to the report, which he described as "the most damning we had ever seen".

Fourteen crewmen died when the aircraft - XV230 - blew up after air-to-air refuelling when leaking fuel made contact with a hot air pipe.

The 14 men killed on the Nimrod were:

Flt Lt Steven Johnson, 38, from Collingham, Nottinghamshire, Flt Lt Leigh Anthony Mitchelmore, 28, from Bournemouth, Dorset, Flt Lt Gareth Rodney Nicholas, 40, from Redruth, Cornwall, Flt Lt Allan James Squires, 39, from Clatterbridge, Merseyside and Flt Lt Steven Swarbrick, 28, from Liverpool.

Flt Sgt Gary Wayne Andrews, 48, from Tankerton, Kent, Flt Sgt Stephen Beattie, 42, from Dundee, Flt Sgt Gerard Martin Bell, 48, from Newport, Shropshire, and Flt Sgt Adrian Davies, 49, from Amersham, Buckinghamshire, Sgt Benjamin James Knight, 25, from Bridgwater, Sgt John Joseph Langton, 29,from Liverpool and Sgt Gary Paul Quilliam, 42, from Manchester.

L/Cpl Oliver Simon Dicketts, of the Parachute Regiment, from Wadhurst and Royal Marine Joseph David Windall, 22, from Hazlemere.



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