Formal notifications of systemic airworthiness failings

It is a feature of the Nimrod Review (2009) that Mr Haddon-Cave QC disregarded evidence of systemic failures dating back to the mid 1980s, claiming they only commenced in 1998. He then named and shamed staff serving at, and after, this 1998 baseline, while praising those from the earlier period. This had a number of consequences:

1. Those named had no right of reply and have been held responsible for both Nimrod XV230 and the wider systemic failings, despite clear evidence they were not. This is especially true of the named MoD officers; General Sir Sam Cowan, Air Chief Marshal Sir Malcolm Pledger, Group Captain George Baber and Wing Commander Michael Eagles.

2. Those praised, especially Air Chief Marshal Michael Alcock (RAF Chief Engineer 1991-96), subsequently quoted Haddon-Cave’s praise in an effort to refute the notion of earlier systemic failures. General Cowan was criticised for implementing savings of 20% over a four year period, which had little or no effect on airworthiness; yet Alcock had been in post during three consecutive 28% cuts to the direct airworthiness budget from 1991. Full details of this were included in the submission to Lord Philip, and the 1992 cut is mentioned in the Chinook Airworthiness Review Team report of 1992. Yet, no-one had the integrity to speak up in General Cowan’s defence. Nor did the MoD staff who knew Mr Haddon-Cave to be wrong.

3. The lasting and practical effect is that MoD, if it seeks to correct these systemic failings, will only be granted funding to regress to 1998, when in fact it needs much more to address longer term failings.

It is a recurring theme that, had he mentioned these verifiable facts, Mr Haddon-Cave would not have been able to name those he did without contradicting himself. One must ask why he omitted them.

'Red 5' contains a comprehensive list of those notified, revealing the few who did their duty.