Sir - I refer to press reports on the findings of a Military Accidents Investigation Board convened to establish the cause of the accident to the Royal Air Force Boeing Chinook Mk2 which crashed on the Mull of Kintyre on 2 June, 1994, with no survivors (Flight International, 21-27 June, P4).
The accident report was unable to establish the reason for the accident or to apportion blame in the circumstances, yet senior officers later found the pilots guilty of gross negligence. This was a subjective opinion contrary to an objective report.
Such pronouncements - and some press articles - have been unfairly damaging to the reputation of the two officers. They were piloting an aircraft, which was unable to operate in icing conditions and lacked weather radar with terrain-mapping capability, which would have warned the pilots of the high ground ahead. The report also indicated that the aircraft had numerous technical faults.
On the day of the accident, the cloud base and the 4°C isotherm were low. This would account for flight at 500ft (150m) over the water. Assumptions made in the media that "...many suspect that the pilots chose go give themselves and their passengers some excitement by flying just above the sea" are surprising, damaging and unfair.
The report states that it would be incorrect to criticise the pilot-in-command "...for human failings based on the available evidence" and, in addition, "...there were no human failings with respect to the second pilot", who was reportedly handling the aircraft at the time of the accident. Nonetheless, statements made by senior officers which were appended to the report before it was released to the press on 16 June, 1995, attributed the accident to "gross negligence" on the part of the pilots. I consider such statements regrettable.
The pilots should be given the benefit of the considerable doubt. In the circumstances, any financial penalty imposed on the widows of the pilots would be deplorable.
Capt. Ralph Kohn
Camberley, Surrey, UK
Source: Flight International