Northern Ireland

Brother of pilot killed in crash questions decision to close files for 100 years

Some 29 people died in June 1994 when an RAF Chinook helicopter crashed on the Mull of Kintyre peninsula.

Families of those killed in the crash are planning to travel to the Mull of Kintyre next month
Families of those killed in the crash are planning to travel to the Mull of Kintyre next month (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The brother of a man who was killed in an RAF Chinook helicopter crash has questioned a decision by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to lock away files relating to the accident for 100 years amid claims of a cover-up.

Twenty-nine people were killed when the helicopter carrying leading security personnel crashed on the Mull of Kintyre peninsula in Argyll and Bute on June 2, 1994.

The aircraft was on its way from RAF Aldergrove near Belfast to a security conference in Inverness when it crashed into a hillside in thick fog.

The incident was the worst RAF peacetime disaster and the reasons for the crash remain unclear.

Chris Cook, brother of one of the two pilots killed in the crash, spoke out after learning the MoD has not arranged an official memorial service to mark the tragedy’s 30th anniversary next month.

Flight lieutenants Richard Cook and Jonathan Tapper were initially accused of gross negligence over the crash.

However, a review of the incident in 2011 found the pilots should not have been blamed.

Mr Cook said: “I find it extremely disappointing that the families and loved ones of the 29 passengers and crew continue to be treated with such disrespect by the MoD.

“Irrespective of the controversy that followed this disaster and the subsequent long campaign that both my and the Tapper family went through to get justice for the two deceased pilots, there is a continued unacceptable lack of recognition or respect by the MoD of the service that each of these 29 brave individuals gave to their country.”

Mr Cook and other families are now planning to travel to the Mull of Kintyre on the anniversary of the crash for a church-led remembrance service.

The service has been organised by the local parish minister, Reverend Steven Sass, who has been liaising with an army chaplain in Northern Ireland.

Reverend Roddy McNidder, who was the parish minister at the time of the crash in 1994, will deliver the sermon.

Rev Sass, Minister of Southend Parish Church, said: “We hope that as many of the families as possible will join us. We want them to feel welcome and supported, and we hope that this act of remembrance will give them the support which they need on this important anniversary.

The wreckage of the Chinook helicopter which crashed on the Mull of Kintyre
The wreckage of the Chinook helicopter which crashed on the Mull of Kintyre (Chris Bacon/PA)

“I understand that some of the families feel upset about the lack of an official military-led memorial service, but we hope that the church can offer the comfort, respect and recognition that is deserved.

“After the church service, which starts at 12.30pm, we will travel to the memorial cairn at the crash site for a special act of remembrance at 3pm.”

Also attending will be Dr Susan Phoenix and her son Niven, a former military and now commercial pilot, whose father, senior Royal Ulster Constabulary officer Ian Phoenix, was one of the men killed in the crash.

They and other campaigners believe there is a continuing cover-up over the real cause of the accident and have questioned statements made by the MoD about the findings of an independent review conducted in 2010.

David Hill, a retired aeronautical engineer who worked at the MoD for more than 30 years, said: “Last week, the MoD claimed the findings of the Mull of Kintyre review were fully accepted and that no safety issues with the Chinook Mark 2 were raised in the report.

“The findings were not fully accepted by MoD and they continue to trot out this nonsense. The entirety of section seven of the report relates to safety and the failing airworthiness culture, culminating in the worst failure imaginable.

“We know from a Boscombe Down report that there were airworthiness concerns and that the aircraft should not have been operated in any way that places any reliance whatsoever on the proper functioning of this equipment.”

Chris Cook, a commercial pilot himself, said: “It appears from the MoD’s statement that they still don’t accept, after all this time and after all the reports including the official Mull of Kintyre review, that there could have been any safety issues with the Chinook Mark 2 going into service, which I find staggering.

“Especially as it’s been proven that Boscombe Down had grounded it because there were known safety issues with the aircraft.

“The fact that the MoD have had the official files on this crash locked away for 100 years, till 2094, does raise serious questions regarding a cover-up. Since this came to light, many of the bereaved families are now very concerned that a cover-up has occurred.”

The independent review, announced in 2010 and published in 2011, found that criticism of the Board of Inquiry on the grounds that insufficient attention was paid to airworthiness and maintenance aspects was unjustified.

Last week, an MoD spokesperson said: “The Mull of Kintyre was a tragic accident and our thoughts and sympathies remain with the families, friends and colleagues of all those who died.

“In 2010, the Mull of Kintyre independent review was carried out and the findings were fully accepted.

“The review did not find new evidence to suggest mechanical failure and no safety issues with the Chinook Mark 2 were raised in the report.”