The catalogue of lies

The purpose of lying is to conceal the truth.

The end result of lying and misleading is the same.

Deception by misleading is more damaging than an outright lie precisely because the blame for the miscommunication is shifted onto the listener... 'But I never actually said...'

The following examples of MoD lying and misleading served to shift the blame for past accidents, and had fatal consequences because recurrence could not be avoided.


1. (Mull of Kintyre) The claim that evidence could not be concealed for 17 years

On 7 January 2010 Air Chief Marhsals Alcock and Graydon wrote to the Daily Telegraph; 'You suggest we may be trying to hide something. Could something have been hidden for all these years when leaks from Government departments are a daily occurrence?'

This was written before Alcock and Graydon knew that the author of the Chinook Airworthiness Review Team (CHART) report of 1992 had come forward. Both they, and the MoD staff they briefed, consistently referred to the '52 page' CHART report. They did not know the author had advised me it actually ran to nearly 400 pages.

The 52 pages had been lodged in the House of Commons library at the time of its inquiry. Steve Webb MP asked for a copy and was assured there were only 52 pages. The remainder contained damning evidence that systemic airworthiness failings already existing by July 1992 (under Alcock), and had been knowingly withheld from all previous inquiries.

Who benefitted?

Not only would this have raised doubt as to the gross negligence verdict against the Chinook ZD576 pilots, when the regulations required 'absolutely no doubt', it is further evidence proving wrong Mr Haddon-Cave’s claim that the failings only commenced in 1998. It is the evidence that clears General Sir Sam Cowan of the criticism he received in the Nimrod Review.

With hindsight, the content of the CHART report explained the (at the time) inexplicable behaviour of Alcock's immediate subordinate, Air Vice Marshal Chris Baker when, in December 1992, he threatened to dismiss civilian staff who were reporting the same thing. That is, systemic airworthiness failures under the RAF's policy of 'savings at the expense of safety', and refusing to obey orders to make false declarations.

2. Trend Failures

On 10 November 2005 Adam Ingram, Minister for the Armed Forces, claimed in a letter to Steve Webb MP that, to raise ANY doubt as to cause of the loss of Chinook ZD576, a technical fault must be proven to have existed on THAT aircraft. That it was irrelevant if the fault existed on any or all other Chinooks.

This negates the entire concept of trend failures and fault investigations. The reason why investigations and Boards of Inquiry are carried out is to prevent recurrence. Implicitly, this accepts that faults can occur in other aircraft and can be prevented before they manifest themselves. Ingram was now saying that if a fault or accident occurred, then there was no point in investigating because it would be irrelevant to all other aircraft of that type.

Note that in 1992 instructions were issued to Air Member Supply and Organisation staff not to progress fault investigations and funding withdrawn (progressively, and then completely in January 1993).

This, and other examples herein, raises grave doubts about the veracity of MoD’s evidence in every airworthiness related accident.

3. (Mull of Kintyre) Radar Altimeter faults in Chinook ZD576

In a letter of 10 November 2005 Ingram stated that the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) did not note any faults in the Radar Altimeter.

In fact, the AAIB had noted three faults. One was well-known since at least 1983, resulting in a vital setting not being advised to maintainers, meaning there was no method of ensuring this part of the device worked. That is, the indicated range would not necessarily be accurate.

In a follow up reply of 21 June 2006, Ingram conceded the AAIB noted these faults, but maintained they were irrelevant. So, the accuracy of the device designed to measure and indicate proximity to the ground was deemed irrelevant in an accident in which the aircraft hit the ground?

Whoever wrote this, and briefed Ingram, is a dangerous idiot, and should never be allowed near an aircraft again, or in an MoD establishment.

This speaks to the willingness of MoD staff to lie and conceal in Ministerial briefings. And that Ministers condone such behaviour.

4. Poor Quality Control at Boeing

In this letter of 10 November 2005, Ingram stated it was 'irrelevant' that Boeing’s Quality Control was known to be poor. The example given to him was that of a contractor narrowly escaping serious injury when a 6-foot high avionics rack in a Chinook Mk2 fell on him because it had not been fitted properly during aircraft assembly.

Quality Control is a fundamental component of airworthiness. Advising Ingram to state this was an outrageous and quite deliberate deceit by MoD.

Ingram misled by omission because, while rejecting relevance, he was fully aware poor Quality Control was to blame for the loss of Chinook ZA721 in February 1987, in which seven died. (Falkland Islands).

5. Configuration Control and the claim the Chinook HC Mk2 was brand new in 1993

In this letter of 10 November 2005, Ingram stated that there was 'no situation' in which Configuration Control could be lacking in the Mk2. (Configuration Control is another fundamental component of airworthiness, and a pre-requisite to a valid Safety Case and Release to Service). The reason given was that the Chinook Mk2 had only been in service since November 1993. Any reasonable person, but lacking detailed knowledge of Chinook history, would infer the Mk2 was new and unrelated to the Mk1.

In fact, the Mk2 was a modification to the Mk1 and so, if any Configuration Control problems remained on Mk1 at the time of conversion, then they would, by definition, exist from Day 1 on Mk2.

In stating this, Ingram misled by omitting that he was fully aware that poor Configuration Control had been notified in 1985 by Officer Commanding Engineering at RAF Odiham, that the CHART report of August 1992 stated the problem remained extant, and the Chief of Defence Procurement (Sir Robert Walmsley) confirmed the same to the Public Accounts Committee in March 1999.

That is, by definition the Chinook HC Mk2 Safety Case could not be validated on 2 June 1994.

6. Implementation of Airworthiness Regulations

In the letter of 21 June 2006, Ingram claimed MoD had a 'robust airworthiness framework that mandates the need to regularly review faults for trends, and takes necessary investigative and corrective action'.

This last was untrue, because in 1990-93 the funding for such work was cut by 28% each year and instructions issued that it cease. (See 2. above). The CHART report of August 1992 notes the 1992/3 cut.

Ingram further stated the investigation into ZD576 examined the Chinook fleet trends evidence pertinent to ZD576. He repeated his previous assertion that trends can only exist on THAT aircraft; that faults on other aircraft are irrelevant. He omitted that such trend analysis ceased in 1991, part of the RAF's savings at the expense of safety policy.

He used this argument to state this did not raise 'reasonable doubt' in the Mull of Kintyre case. He misled, ignoring that the test was no doubt, not reasonable doubt.

He also stated MoD has 'never experienced any instances where there has been pressure applied to misuse the “read across” process, nor do (we) have any experience of read across being used erroneously'.

This sweeping statement applied pan-MoD, not just to Chinook. It was a blatant lie, because the same area of MoD (the same Project Office as Chinook, in the Directorate of Helicopter Projects) was embroiled in many such cases on Sea King in 1996-2001, whereby the Defence Helicopter Support Authority claimed erroneous read across from AEW Mk2 to ASaC Mk7, ultimately contributing to the loss of two ASaC Mk7 aircraft on 22 March 2003, killing seven aircrew. (Explained in 'Breaking the Military Covenant').

Finally, Ingram stated MoD had examined 'all the complex technical, legal and airmanship issues', but found nothing to undermine the findings against the pilots. This was a lie, because MoD staff knew the aircraft to be unairworthy.

7. (Mull of Kintyre) If there is data in SuperTANS memory, this means the entire Navigation System is both accurate and serviceable

This lie completely ignored the concept of systems integration.

Omitted, was that the entire Navigation System only had a Switch-On Only clearance, meaning the crew were not permitted to rely upon it in any way whatsoever. But they were not told this.

That is, MoD’s entire case relied upon the casual acceptance that the aircraft had proper, legal clearances when, in fact, it did not. The Switch-On Only clearance was the 'new' evidence MoD continually demanded for 17 years. As soon as it was tabled (in the airworthiness submission to Lord Philip) MoD’s position changed from intransigence to giving up without a fight. Nothing better illustrates its significance.

8. (Mull of Kintyre) There was no such thing as a Release to Service (RTS) until January 1996

On 11 May 2010 Mr Rod Latham, Assistant Private Secretary to the Minister for the Armed Forces, wrote to Dr Susan Phoenix, who had lost her husband on Chinook ZD576. Dr Phoenix had asked for a copy of the Release to Service (RTS, the Master Airworthiness Reference) current at the time of the accident. His letter was a catalogue of lies and deceit.

Chief among them was the claim that RTSs did not exist until '1995/96'. The Chinook HC Mk2 RTS was signed by Air Vice Marshal Anthony Bagnall, the Assistant Chief of the Air Staff, in November 1993.

Any reasonable person would conclude the aim was to distance Bagnall and his immediate superior (Air Chief Marshal Michael Graydon) from the fabrication that is the RTS.

Later, Lord Philip confirmed the Controller Aircraft Release signed by Sir Donald Spiers was 'mandated' upon Bagnall. Adhering to this legal obligation would have prevented an operational release, primarily because the FADEC software was grossly immature and not permitted in the aircraft. Bagnall’s RTS concealed this from RAF aircrew, offering instead a false declaration that the aircraft met mandated regulations and was airworthy.

Latham also claimed Service Deviations 'are not directly related to flying the aircraft'. This was wrong. The only two Service Deviations current at the time of the accident, and dated 22 April 1994, were (a) Use of Night Vision Goggles, and (b) Extended range fuel tanks.

Latham also claimed 'Interim' and 'Initial' CA Release were the same thing. They are not. Interim refers to a type of Release, Initial to a date. 'Interim' means the system referred to, or in this case the entire aircraft, is 'not to be relied upon in any way'.

The clear aim of this lie was to divert Dr Phoenix from the fact the aircraft was not legally cleared to fly. Her husband, and is colleagues, were knowingly placed in an unairworthy aircraft by the RAF. That, I submit, is manslaughter.

9. The Mull of Kintyre Inquiry found no evidence of technical malfunction (Air Chief Marshal John Day)

This is manifestly untrue. In fact, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch report notes faults within the GPS unit, whereby Time of Day was not available. (The same was evident in the Sea King ASaC Mk7s that collided over Iraq in March 2003). Also, the Radar Altimeter Transmitter/Receiver was incorrectly adjusted (a long standing and well known problem). The SuperTANS was found to be switched off AT impact (not BY impact), possibly indicating an attempt had been made to clear an Electro Magnetic Interference problem by cycling the SuperTANS (a recognised procedure).

Additionally, Day withheld the vital fact that a modification, deemed mandatory by Boscombe Down, was outstanding on the Differential Air Speed Hold system. This requirement arose from the cause of the 1987 Falkland Islands fatal crash (seven killed). MoD would have a desire not to scheme this modification, because its very existence would be an acknowledgement the official cause of the crash (i.e. 'not determined') was wrong.

This issue was raised in evidence at the ZD576 Fatal Accident Inquiry, but left unexplored. Yet, it is just one of many pieces of evidence that would have rendered the findings against the pilots unsafe.

10. (Mull of Kintyre) The Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) did not contain Safety Critical Software

In evidence to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC 1999-2000/85 March 2000) MoD stated; '...a letter dated 21 April 1999 from Mr John Spellar, MP, then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defence, to the Chairman of House of Commons Defence Committee, who went on to advise that "Our Judgement remains that FADEC is not flight safety critical by the standards to which MoD authorities work, namely that failure "would" lead to catastrophe, as opposed to the US definition "could"'.

MoD sought to distil the issue down to the difference between 'would' and 'could'. According to Mr Spellar, if the policy said 'could', then it was Safety Critical. The policy DID say 'could'. When MoD claimed the original policy document could not be found, I provided it to Lord Philip.

Thus, by MoD’s definition, the FADEC software was Safety Critical. That meant it required a Certificate of Design specific to Safety Critical Software before it could be put to use (i.e. fitted to a Chinook HC Mk2). None existed because, on the date of the crash, Boscombe Down (who were required to sign it) had ceased testing the software and grounded their Chinook trials aircraft.

FADEC was not permitted to be fitted to an RAF Chinooks, and this is the primary reason why the Master Airworthiness Reference issued by the RAF was a fabrication.

11. The Chinook Airworthiness Review Team report (August 1992) did not apply to Chinook HC Mk2

When the existence of 52 pages of the CHART report was made known to the press in early 2010, Air Chief Marshal Michael Alcock (who had issued the CHART terms of reference) made various claims in the media (e.g. Radio Ulster on 12 April 2010) stating CHART did not apply in any way to the Chinook HC Mk2. In fact, it mentioned the Mk2 programme no less than 274 times. Also, the Terms of Reference he issued specifically instruct the CHART Leader to include the Mk2.

This lie helped conceal the fact that he, Air Vice Marshal Anthony Bagnall and Air Chief Marshals Richard Johns and Michael Graydon knew precisely what CHART said, and that the recommendations it contained had not been implemented. All four knew this evidence would wholly undermine the verdict of gross negligence, yet failed in their duty to make this known to inquiries. This perverted the course of justice.

That this lie was later included in a statement by Dr Liam Fox, the Secretary of State, clearly demonstrates the continuing influence these retired staff have on their successors.

Furthermore, in correspondence with the BBC, Controller Aircraft Sir Donald Spiers also referred to CHART having only 52 pages. Yet, shortly beforehand, he had denied ever seeing CHART. Spiers was not on the CHART distribution, and Alcock had specifically instructed the team leader NOT to speak to Spiers’ staff in MoD(PE). Had any of these staff seen CHART in August 1992, or at any time thereafter, they would have known immediately that the Chinook HC Mk2 Release to Service was a fabrication.

So, Sir Donald either concealed this at the time (a serious offence and in breach of his airworthiness delegation obligations) or he only became aware of CHART following the 2010 publicity, and sought a briefing from Alcock or Graydon as to what party line he should follow. Either way, what exposes the lie is that he specified 52 pages, when Alcock and Graydon knew there were nearly 400.

This is a very serious matter, demanding deeper investigation.

12. (Mull of Kintyre) Air Chief Marshal Michael Graydon’s claim that Chinook ZD576 was off course 'by some miles'

On 4 February 1997, when Chief of the Air Staff, Graydon wrote to Marshal of the RAF Sir John Grandy (retired) stating the aircraft was 'off course by some miles' when it hit the ground.

The aircraft was only a few hundred feet from its intended track; insignificant in such terrain, where weaving is unavoidable especially when actively prevented from flying at one's Safety Altitude.

Any reasonable person would conclude the intent was to cast aspersions on the pilots' ability and competence, in the hope of bolstering support among senior/retired RAF officers. To be off course by some miles, after such a short transit from Belfast to Mull of Kintyre, would be viewed as less than competent, and serve to divert attention from evidence the Air Staff were seeking to conceal. That is, the aircraft was grossly unairworthy, non-compliant with almost every mandated airworthiness regulation and had no legal operational clearance. (As evidenced in the submission to Lord Philip; and which Lord Philip confirmed).

At no point was Graydon challenged as to what he thought the 'true' course was.

It is a feature of MoD’s behaviour in this and other cases that the concept of a senior officer being wrong is simply not tolerated or to be considered. The senior rank is always right, regardless of the evidence. Despite Graydon being demonstrably wrong, and seriously misleading Sir John Grandy, no-one dared challenge his statement. This is what made Dr Liam Fox’s decision to rule in favour of the pilots so utterly extraordinary, for which he deserves eternal credit.

13. The claim that Safety Cases were only mandated from 2002

This claim was made in, for example, current Military Aviation Authority (MAA) papers. In fact, Safety Cases for modifications have been mandated since 1992. Such modifications included Chinook HC Mk1 to Mk2 and Nimrod MR2 to MRA4.

By claiming 2002 in the context of Nimrod, MoD focused blame on the Nimrod IPT leader (Group Captain George Baber) for the poor Nimrod Safety Case.

This deceit allowed them to ignore the fact that Group Captain Baber should have inherited a valid Safety Case when he took up post. Instead of being blamed, he deserved credit for recognising this deficiency and letting a contract to create a Safety Case. The fact that MoD, as a matter of policy, did not have sufficiently trained staff to manage such a task is a separate issue (and not Baber’s fault).

This also ignored that, while Safety Cases per se may not have been mandated before 1992, the necessary information would be available from any reputable company holding the necessary approvals and certification to be allowed an MoD contract, in the form of a 'Safety Argument'. The MoD claim left the reader to infer the concept of compiling a body of evidence demonstrating the safety of an aircraft or its equipment only began in 2002.

14. The necessary Integration, Reference and Sample Rigs to conduct Fault Investigations were held at RAF Swanton Morley

On 17 May 2007, in reply to Steve Webb MP, Adam Ingram (Minister for the Armed Forces) claimed that RAF Swanton Morley (specifically, the MACD section located there) would have been able to undertake fault investigations. The context being, the RAF Chief Engineer had progressively cut Post Design Services (PDS) funding from 1991 and dismantled the necessary PDS Sample and Reference Rigs, and Integration Rigs. Ingram was attempting to justify this by claiming the work could be done elsewhere.

Avionic rigs (for example) were spread among over 70 PDS contractors throughout the UK; not to mention equipments of foreign origin. There is not an RAF base in the UK large enough to host these rigs, never mind the staff with the expertise to operate and maintain them, or the technical backup to support investigations.

Ingram’s statement was a lie. Its sole purpose was to imply this policy had no adverse effect. Neither he nor his MoD advisors understood the link to airworthiness and the Safety Case. Said rigs are fundamental to maintaining the Build Standard, and hence the Safety Case. In effect, Ingram was saying all Safety Cases were under the control of RAF Swanton Morley. In fact, MACD’s task was limited to data collection and analysis, in support of Service Engineering Authorities and Design Authorities.