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Saturday, 16 February, 2002, 13:08 GMT
Call for Hawk crash rate exposure
Hawk jet
RAF Valley has the largest Hawk fleet in the UK
The RAF is coming under pressure to reveal the accident rate of its Hawk trainer aircraft after a second machine crashed near a north Wales airbase in six months.

The plane, which is worth 5m-7m, came down in a field just yards from a farmhouse on Anglesey, whose occupants are on holiday in Australia, after the pilot ejected within 20 seconds of take-off.


It is past time the RAF came clean about the problems associated with the aircraft

Celtic League General Secretary Bernard Moffat

The RAF has denied the Hawk has an accident rate which is higher than other aircraft in service.

But the Celtic League, a lobby group for Celtic culture which monitors the impact of military activity in Wales, said the RAF "should come clean about the alarming attrition rate of this troubled aircraft".

The 35-year-old pilot instructor suffered back injuries after he ejected seconds before the plane hit the ground. No-one else was hurt.

It is thought a bird was sucked into the engine although the RAF said it is too early to comment on the possible cause of the incident which happened around 0730 GMT on Friday.

Around 70 Hawks are stationed at Valley, the largest fleet in the RAF, and an investigation panel began work on Saturday morning to name the cause of the incident.

Celtic League General Secretary, Bernard Moffat, said: "It is the latest in a series of accidents, some involving serious injury or fatalities involving the type, whilst in RAF service.

A Hawk trainer with wing-tip missiles
The Hawk is used to train pilots for a combat role

"The aircraft based at RAF Valley exercise over parts of the Irish sea, north Wales and northern England.

"The Celtic League have monitored its chequered history over the years. This indicates a disturbing accident pattern.

"The attrition rate for the aircraft has seen approximately 20% of the 180 procured by the RAF lost in accidents and many incidents have occurred during take off and landings indicating instability and power problems.

Civilian population

"Difficulties with a much modified version adopted by the United States Navy (The T-45) support this scenario.

"The introduction of the US version was delayed following an accident whilst power and stability problems were addressed.

"It is past time the RAF came clean about the problems associated with the aircraft.

"They are not only putting their aircrew, many of whom have been killed, in jeopardy, but also posing a risk to the civilian population in the areas over which the aircraft operate."

RAF Valley spokesman, Squadron Leader Mark Byrne, said the Celtic League needed to put its figures into the context of the Hawk having been in RAF service for 27 years.

Combat pilots

"The role they are engaged in is training pilots to be combat pilots and this has an inherent amount of risk that is managed very carefully.

"While they say we are doing something very dangerous, there has never been a civilian casualty in any accident that might have occurred at RAF Valley."

Mr Byrne added that the higher rate of accidents associated with take-offs and landings was true across the aviation world, including civilian airliners.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Wales's Collette Hume
"This is all that remains of the hawk jet that crashed just moments after take-off"
See also:

15 Feb 02 | Wales
Jet crashes near RAF base
29 Sep 01 | Wales
Officers investigate jet crash
28 Sep 00 | Wales
RAF jets in 'near miss'
24 Aug 99 | Wales
RAF jet crashes on take-off
20 Jan 00 | UK Politics
Charting the Hawk's success
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