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I first remember reading of this crash in Private Eye the week after it happened. The fact that 29 of the top security and intelligence officers operating in Northern Ireland were killed outright raised questions in my mind.

Was it normal operating procedure to load all the leading spooks of Northern Ireland on one helicopter already known to be dodgy.

Then years later I was contacted by someone who, without fuss or wishing to be named, mentioned that they had seen flight ZD-576 fly over the coast towards Scotland and then, a minute or two later, watched another black Chinook follow in its wake. This has never been reported.

I also remember reading a newspaper article back in the 1990's that the RAF was experimenting with an anti-aircraft HIRF gun (High Intensity Radio Frequency), but when I went back to relocate the newspaper article it had disappeared off the face of our cyber-planet. Perhaps the testing proved the worth of the weapon?

The last flight of Zulu Delta 576
New evidence casts doubt on MoD's insistence that pilots were to blame for RAF's worst peacetime crash

[Image: raf_chinook_1.jpg]

Stuart Millar
The Guardian, Thursday May 27 1999
Article history
At 5.42pm on June 2 1994, RAF Chinook Zulu Delta 576 took off from RAF Aldergrove near Belfast. On board were four special forces aircrew and 25 senior members of the Northern Ireland intelligence community, bound for a security conference near Inverness.
They never made it. Eighteen minutes into the flight, the helicopter hit the cloud-covered Mull of Kintyre, killing all 29 passengers and crew. It was the RAF's worst peacetime accident.

Evidence uncovered by Computer Weekly magazine now casts doubt on the MoD's insistence that the two pilots were to blame. Flight lieutenants Jonathan Tapper, 28, and Rick Cook, 30, were both experienced special forces pilots with exemplary records. Flt Lt Tapper, the captain, had a total of 3,165 military flying hours. Flt Lt Cook, who was at the controls, had 2,867 hours.

Care failure
With no evidence of a technical malfunction discovered by accident investigators, an RAF board of inquiry found them guilty of "gross negligence". They had "wrongly continued to fly towards the high ground" and failed to observe minimum care in bad weather when they flew into the isolated Scottish hillside.

But the latest investigation shows that by continuing to blame the pilots, the MoD has failed the RAF's own test in accident investigations, which states that "only in cases in which there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever should deceased aircrew be found negligent".

The new evidence focuses on an innovative computer engine control system which was being fitted to the RAF's Chinooks in the early 1990s. Because it had the ability to take the engines down to idle or accelerate them to maximum speed, the system was known as full authority digital engine control, or Fadec.

From the start of the upgrade there were problems. Warning lights would come on, which forced crews to embark on a series of distracting checks often only to discover that there was no apparent problem. Sometimes engines would run down, on other occasions they would run up, in danger of going out of control, when the computer system pumped in too much fuel. A common feature of the problems was that they left no physical trace.

Nevertheless, in November 1993 the Chinook Mk2 was cleared for operational service. The MoD believed that none of these problems jeopardised the safety of the aircraft, although there was a weight restriction so that if Fadec shut down one engine, the helicopter could still fly on the other.

It was only after Chinook ZD576 hit the Mull of Kintyre seven months later that the full extent of concerns about the Fadec system started to emerge.

At 5.55pm on the day of the crash, ZD576 was seen by an amateur yachtsman flying below cloud two to three nautical miles from the Mull of Kintyre lighthouse. It was flying in a straight line at level altitude about 200ft-300ft above sea level. Visibility was good.

The top of the Mull was shrouded in cloud but the crew had not planned to fly over it anyway. Flt Lt Tapper indicated on the navigation computer that they had seen their first waypoint, the lighthouse, and entered the second waypoint, Corran, about 90 miles away. That would require a slight left turn, which would let them continue round the Mull at low level.

But the helicopter never made the turn. Soon after Flt Lt Tapper entered the new waypoint, ZD576 crashed into the hillside, bounced, broke up in flames and landed again about 300 metres from the initial impact.

Based on findings by the civil air accidents investigation branch, called in to conduct the technical inquiry into the crash, four members of an RAF board of inquiry acknowledged that even though there was no evidence of a technical malfunction, "an unforeseen malfunction of the type being experienced on the Chinook Mk2, which would not necessarily have left any physical evidence, remained a possibility and could not be discounted".

But two senior officers charged with reviewing the report and deciding on the findings, Air Chief Marshal Sir William Wratten and Air Vice Marshal John Day, disagreed with their colleagues and pronounced the pilots guilty of gross negligence. Sir William said of Flt Lt Tapper: "I cannot categorise his failure as an error of judgment: this would suggest that he made an honest mistake. To the contrary, he did not exercise appropriate care and judgment."

The MoD also dismissed the judgment of a Scottish fatal accident inquiry, under Sheriff Sir Stephen Young, which ruled there was no proof the pilots were to blame.

But the pilots' families and aviation experts believe evidence which has emerged since shows the helicopter was just as likely to have suffered a temporary "overspeed", forcing it to climb into the cloud and on to the Mull as the pilots fought to bring down the engine speed. This may have been compounded by other problems, which would have prevented the helicopter from making a planned left turn around the Mull.

Documents unearthed by Computer Weekly back up this theory and confirm suspicions that the MoD has attempted to cover up evidence which suggested the Chinook had suffered serious technical problems.

At the time of the crash the MoD was taking legal action in the US against the engine manufacturers Textron-Lycoming, over an incident during ground testing of a modified Chinook at Boeing's plant in Wilmington, Pennsylvania, in 1989. The aircraft was almost destroyed by an engine overspeed which occurred when the two independent sensors Fadec uses to detect engine speed were in effect knocked out. The MoD blamed a flaw in the design of the software which meant Fadec wrongly interpreted this as a total loss of power, causing it to pump too much fuel into rotors which were actually functioning normally.

Investigators not told
The MoD did not tell the AAIB investigators about the litigation, despite its relevance to their inquiry. The fault code displayed by Fadec after the 1989 incident was E5. The same code was subsequently found on one of the crashed Chinook's computers.

In March last year, the then armed forces minister, John Reid, appeared before the Commons defence select committee looking into the 1994 crash. The committee's report was a great success for the MoD, concluding on the basis of the evidence that there were no "fundamental flaws" in the design of the helicopter or its components.

But the magazine's investigation has established that the information Dr Reid gave to the committee was inaccurate. There is no suggestion he deliberately misled the committee, but the quality of the briefings he received is called into question. The MoD dismisses allegations that officials knowingly misled parliament.

Asked why the MoD had withheld details of the US legal action, Dr Reid told them: "It was not - I repeat it was not - on account of the failure of the software... We sued them for negligence in their testing procedures. We did not sue them because of a failure of the Fadec software. This is one of the misconceptions that has unfortunately been allowed to flourish."

He repeated this line when explaining why the Scottish fatal accident inquiry had not been told about the case against the engine manufacturers.

But a copy of the government's official claim against Textron-Lycoming and a letter from the engine manufacturer's insurers denying the claim, both obtained by Computer Weekly, reveal that the MoD's case was based almost entirely on the faulty design of the Fadec system.

The government claimed that the system was not airworthy, that the software was not adequately documented and that the almost total reliance on unproven software for engine and aircraft safety constituted a flawed design system.

The case went to arbitration, and in November 1995, Textron-Lycoming paid the MoD more than $3m (£1.8m) in compensation.

But as recently as May 15 this year, British ministers were still insisting to MPs that the 1989 incident had been caused by faulty testing.

Both before and after the crash the MoD's military aircraft testing establishment at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire had expressed grave concerns about the Fadec system. On June 1, the day before the accident, it suspended flight trials of the upgraded Chinook after a series of unexplained Fadec-related malfunctions. Two days later, an internal memo criticised the software as "unverifiable and therefore unsuited for its intended purpose".

Before the committee, Dr Reid was disparaging about Boscombe Down's concerns. But evidence has come to light revealing that concern about Fadec went much higher than the test pilots.

In a previously unseen memo, dated April 29 1994, the assistant director of helicopter projects, a Captain Brougham, the MoD official appointed project manager for the Chinook, urged his superiors to "understand and take full account of" Boscombe Down's views to ensure that in future negotiations with the manufacturers the MoD would be able to secure the "satisfaction of all safety case issues".

The memo also raised concerns about misleading comparisons between different Fadec systems, calling into question another key element of the MoD's defence of the Chinook programme: the positive experience of other countries which use it. For example, Dr Reid told the select committee last year that the US was "perfectly happy. They have a huge fleet of Chinooks and they are applying the standards of Nasa." The RAF's version of Fadec, however, was different from those used by other countries.

'Series of problems'
The magazine has obtained a second memo from Captain Brougham, dated January 11 1995, in which he referred to a "series of problems" with the Chinooks, "many of which were traced eventually back to software design and systems integrations problems... " The period in which these incidents occurred, Captain Brougham wrote, was between February and July 1994 - the same period as the crash. There is no suggestion that Dr Reid was aware of the existence of either of these memos.

Doubts about the RAF's verdict have been fuelled by the maintenance history of ZD576 itself. Dr Reid told MPs last year that between May 1993 and April 1994, Mk2 Chinooks had experienced five faults during 950 hours of flying.

RAF maintenance reports seen by Computer Weekly reveal that in the eight weeks from the end of March 1994 there were six incidents involving ZD576. Five of them were Fadec-related, including one "ENG FAIL" warning, and one in which a part came loose in the vital flying control assembly.

Dr Reid told MPs he had the power to reopen the inquiry if new information came forward, suggesting that the RAF had reached the wrong decision. The families of Jonathan Tapper and Rick Cook will be calling on ministers to do exactly that.

Trials and errors
1984: The ministry of defence begins process to upgrade Chinook helicopter fleet, installing a computer system called Fadec to control the engines.

January, 1989: RAF Chinook almost destroyed during ground testing of new engine computer system when rotors run up out of control. Engine manufacturers later pay $3m in compensation to MoD.

November, 1993: The upgraded Mk2 Chinook given permission for operational service.

June 1, 1994: The MoD's military aircraft testing establishment at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire suspends flight trials on Mk2 Chinooks after a series of unexplained malfunctions in the engine computer system.

June 2, 1994: RAF Chinook ZD576 crashes into the Mull of Kintyre, killing four aircrew and 25 members of the Northern Ireland security services.

June 3, 1994 : Internal memo from Boscombe Down criticises engine software after number of errors found.

April, 1995: RAF board of inquiry finds the pilots were guilty of "gross negligence" in flying their Chinook into bad weather on the Mull.

March, 1996: Scottish fatal accident inquiry under sheriff Sir Stephen Young rules that the two pilots should not be blamed. The finding is dismissed by the MoD.

November, 1997: Defence secretary George Robertson rules out the possibility of a new inquiry after details of the legal action regarding the 1989 incident are revealed.

March, 1998: Armed forces minister John Reid tells Commons defence select committee that there was no evidence that a technical malfunction caused the 1994 crash. He says the 1989 crash was caused by inadequate testing methods rather than design flaws in the software.

May, 1998: Defence select committee agrees that there were no "fundamental flaws" in the upgraded Chinook or its components.

September, 1998: MoD again refuses to hold a new inquiry after two Chinook experts reveal that the crashed helicopter had suffered technical problems before the accident.

May, 1999: Tony Collins, executive editor of Computer Weekly, publishes results of a long-running investigation into the 1994 crash, casting new doubt on the RAF's verdict blaming the pilots.
This is most interesting David. It does indeed raise some questions as to why there were so many Nth Ireland spooks on one vehicle known to be dodgy. I don't think it is SOP. The MoD seems so keen to blame the pilots despite no proof of pilot error and known on board computer problems. What are they covering for?
My thoughts exactly, Magda.

Supposing there were deeper motives, what would they be? I could speculate in three easy steps if you wish :-)

1. 1990-1994, fours years of behind the scenes discussion and clandestine maneuvering to reach peace in Northern ireland.

2. The Mull helicopter crash 2nd June 1994.

3. The IRA announce ‘a complete cessation of military operations’ 31st August 1994. The loyalist paramilitaries follow suit just over a month later.

Let's never forget that cleaning the augean stables was the sixth labour of the hero Heracles, who received a great, kingly reward for his effort... and we Brits are very good when it comes to the public school education of their elite sons on matters pertaining to matters Greek.

Removing intransigent obstacles is a old and well used device of the ruling elite


The below is extracted from the following webpage and, critically I think, in the order they happened:

Changes in the United States also contributed towards the start of the peace process. The emergence of a small group of Irish-Americans, with key political and corporate links, was instrumental in persuading the Clinton White House to become interested in Northern Ireland.6 They reflected background changes within the Irish-American diaspora. Traditionally sympathetic towards militant republicanism, many moderated their attitude and encouraged Irish republicans to consider the advantages offered by a ceasefire and a peace process. For Clinton, Northern Ireland would be a low-cost, low-risk foreign policy endeavour. He was pushing a door already half open.

First movements: 1990-1994

The first moves towards peace progressed along two parallel routes. Route one sought to maintain momentum between the constitutional parties, and route two saw the first tentative moves to involve republicans in talks. In 1990, the Northern Ireland Secretary of State Sir Peter Brooke authorised secret contact with the IRA in order to find the conditions under which republicans would consider calling a ceasefire and was complemented by more public overtures. In late 1992, the Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds, unaware of the back channel between the IRA and British government, authorised secret contacts between his officials and senior members of Sinn Féin. These secret talks eventually drew both governments towards the same conclusion. On 15 December 1993 the British and Irish governments published the Downing Street Declaration. In a key line, the Declaration noted that ‘the British Government agree that it is for the people of the island of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively, to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland, if that is their wish.’ In what the British government regarded as a major coup, the Irish government reiterated its support for the principle of consent and promised, in the context of an overall settlement, to amend the Irish Constitution to enshrine the consent principle in law. In January 1994 President Clinton’s decision to grant Gerry Adams a US entry visa despite a continuing IRA campaign was a further reminder of the rewards on offer should Sinn Féin pursue the path of constitutional politics. Northern Ireland’s unionists, meanwhile, remained acutely suspicious that a secret deal was under way between the British government and republicans.

Ceasefires and after, 1994-1995

On 31 August 1994 the IRA declared ‘a complete cessation of military operations’, the main loyalist paramilitary organisations following their example in October. The British government shared the unionist suspicions of the IRA ceasefire and ruled out face-to-face talks with Sinn Féin until the permanency of the ceasefire could be established. Nevertheless the British and Irish governments moved to establish the conceptual framework for any political negotiations through the publication of the Frameworks for the Future document. The document stressed that the two governments wanted to see a ‘comprehensive settlement’ that would return greater ‘power, authority and responsibility to all the Northern Ireland people’.7 It also reaffirmed the three stranded approach and outlined, in detail, the issues that could be discussed in each strand.
Wasn't Nth Ireland a bit of a proving ground for the British military and their equipment and tactics? The IRA was always a capitalist based group. There may have been socialists in it but ultimately they were no threat to capitalism (unlike INLA not that they ever really stood a chance) No doubt there is a bank account or two in Switzerland with Irish names on them. Like most former colonies they are still owned by others.
The combination of the presence of so many senior intelligence types on one helicopter and the timing in the broader Irish "peace process" is provocative.

As was the situation in 2003 when the disclosure of the existence of a super secret, top-level, British Intelligence (Force Research Unit) mole within the IRA known as Stakeknife threatened to destroy the tentative peace. And lo and behold, establishment newspapers helped name IRA "Internal Security" or "nutting squad" head, Freddie Scappaticci, as the mole. Many diehard Republicans continue to believe that Stakeknife was actually far higher, and far closer to the heart of the IRA than Scappaticci, and has never been unmasked.

It would be very interesting if it emerged that many of those spooks on the Chinook were from the hardline - promote anarchy and destabilization, FRU death squad - faction of British intelligence. Or alternately, that someone on that chopper knew of FRU's super-mole and wasn't happy about it. Indeed, it would be fascinating to learn the deep political allegiances of all those on board....

I do think there's a possibility that it was black op on black op.

Deja vu all over again...
David Guyatt Wrote:I first remember reading of this crash in Private Eye the week after it happened...

This is an extract from Paul Foot's surprisingly triumphalist piece, "Spooky!," of 29 July 1994, p.26:

Quote:“The importance of the secret mission to the base has been underlined by reports in Scotland of the hysteria which followed the crash. Not since Lockerbie have so many security people poured into a single area. Holidaymakers on the Mull were taken off for hours of questioning, chiefly about documents.

The more probing media in Ireland have been full of speculation about a high-level conference at the base [at the US special forces base at Macrihanish – PR], which was to have been attended by MI5, the CIA, Scotland Yard and intelligence chiefs from Dublin.

The Sunday Business Post and the Phoenix have produced evidence of a plot by intelligence and police to react to an IRA rejection of the Major/Reynolds declaration with a round-up of suspects on both sides of the border. The highly-publicised Operation Madronna on 19 April, involving 1,000 troops and police, is said to have been a “dress rehearsal” for the biggest round-up since internment. An intercepted intelligence phone call suggested that the word “internment” would not be used this time and that suspects would be charged, on intelligence information, of “directing terrorism”: a new offence recently introduced into the Northern Ireland courts.

The result of the Mull of Kintyre catastrophe, however, is that pretty well all the hardline intelligence, police and special branch leaders have been wiped out. One curious consequence may be the replacement of MI5 Orange militants with softer greenish types from MI6 who are much keener on a settlement with Sinn Fein.”
David Guyatt Wrote:Then years later I was contacted by someone who, without fuss or wishing to be named, mentioned that they had seen flight ZD-576 fly over the coast towards Scotland and then, a minute or two later, watched another black Chinook follow in its wake. This has never been reported.

David Sharrock, Sally Weale & Lawrence Donegan, "Security chiefs among 29 dead in Chinook fireball," The Guardian, 3 June 1994, p.1:

Quote:Esther Lamont, wife of the senior keeper at Mull of Kintyre lighthouse, raised the alarm after hearing a huge explosion and seeing a fireball plunge from the sky. Wreckage was spread over a wide area.
Jan Klimkowski Wrote:The combination of the presence of so many senior intelligence types on one helicopter and the timing in the broader Irish "peace process" is provocative...

It would be very interesting if it emerged that many of those spooks on the Chinook were from the hardline - promote anarchy and destabilization, FRU death squad - faction of British intelligence.

Senior MI5 man aboard was John Deverell, the organisation's Director and Co-ordinator of intelligence in the province. Five other members accompanied him: Stephen Rickard; Michael Maltby, John Haynes, Martin Dalton & Anne James.

RUC Special Branch reportedly lost ten, amounting to forty per cent of its command level.

The senior Military Intelligence figure among the dead was Colonel Christopher Biles, OBE, who headed MI in NI.

Quite some cull.

Paul - many thanks for all that detail.

Paul Foot's piece suggests the Mull of Kintyre "accident" may have prevented another round of Internment. Which, assuming for the moment that it was foul play, begs some intriguing questions:

Would the IRA have had the capability & hard intelligence information to take out this helicopter?

Or is it far more likely to have been a military/intelligence hit?

If the latter, by whom? Another faction of British intelligence?

Or the spooks of another nation?
Jan Klimkowski Wrote:Paul - many thanks for all that detail.

Paul Foot's piece suggests the Mull of Kintyre "accident" may have prevented another round of Internment. Which, assuming for the moment that it was foul play, begs some intriguing questions:

Would the IRA have had the capability & hard intelligence information to take out this helicopter?

Or is it far more likely to have been a military/intelligence hit?

If the latter, by whom? Another faction of British intelligence?

Or the spooks of another nation?

Rough guess: Yank decision - made in some haste, by the look of it - but domestic execution, most likely a bomb aboard the helicopter. Identity of the home org? Six, I've always assumed, using a non-SIS "instrumentality."

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