Chinook Airworthiness Review Team (CHART)

Chinook Airworthiness Review Team (CHART) - June to August 1992

The complete CHART report is available below.

In his letter to the RAF Chief Engineer and Assistant Chief of the Air Staff, enclosing the CHART report, the RAF Director of Flight Safety finished;

‘I need no further convincing that the current organisational structure for tasking and fleet management, and lack of resources, are not a healthy recipe for the future sound airworthiness of the Chinook’.

The report also covered Wessex and Puma, as all three aircraft were managed by the same RAF department.

While systemic failures reported by the Director had been notified by civilian staff to MoD(PE) and RAF senior staff from 1987-on, the CHART report is the key evidence that these same senior RAF staff knew the predicted knock-on effect on Front Line operations had come to pass.

The effect of concealing CHART from MoD(PE), other RAF staff, Ministers and Inquiries

If concealing CHART had a benefit, it is that those aware of its content are readily identifiable, as only two RAF officers were action addresses;

ACAS - Air Vice Marshal Anthony Bagnall

RAF Chief Engineer (and Air Member Logistics) - Air Chief Marshal Michael Alcock

As the report was promulgated on AVM Bagnall's first day as ACAS, it is inconceivable he did not bring it to the attention of his immediate boss, Air Chief Marshal Peter Harding or his successor, from 6 November 1992, Air Chief Marshal Michael Graydon. Two of these officers (Alcock and Graydon) were leading figures in the campaign against the pilots. Bagnall has never spoken. CHART puts their actions firmly into perspective.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, then Secretary of State for Defence, has confirmed ACM Graydon did not inform him of CHART when briefed on the Mull of Kintyre findings; thus Parliament was misled. Latterly, Dr Liam Fox was misled into stating CHART was unconnected with Chinook HC Mk2; the Team's Terms of Reference and the content of the Report itself reveal the truth.

There is no mention of CHART by the RAF Board of Inquiry, the Fatal Accident Inquiry or inquiries by the Houses of Commons and Lords. Had any been presented with CHART, their inescapable conclusion would be it was the vital evidence that would have prevented the gross negligence findings.

CHART, in its entirety, was eventually provided to Lord Philip in 2011, not by MoD (as implied by MoD and Government), but by myself, having obtained it under Freedom of Information.

What was the RAF's reaction to CHART?

From the viewpoint of the civilian airworthiness staff, to whom CHART would have been total vindication (had they seen it or if Alcock had permitted the Team to speak to them), the answer is simple. The Chief Engineer's immediate subordinate, Director General Support Management (RAF) Air Vice Marshal Chris Baker, visited London in December 1992 and threatened these staff with dismissal if they persisted in drawing attention to money being knowingly wasted and airworthiness regulations being suborned. (And it is inconceivable he would make such threats without the ‘top cover’ afforded by his boss). At the time, these actions seemed bizarre. No airworthiness staff could understand such an attitude. The acquisition of CHART, 18 years later, explained this for the first time.

No corrective action was taken. In fact, further cuts were imposed. Over the next 6 years, further ARTs cited precisely the same systemic failures. And, even as the Chief of Defence Procurement (CDP), Sir Robert Walmsley, was confirming to the Public Accounts Committee on 3 March 1999 that the failings remained extant, he was condoning and upholding disciplinary action against his own civilian staff for the same ‘offence’ committed by those in 1988-92. That is, it remained an offence to refuse to make false declarations regarding airworthiness. It remains MoD policy to support DGSM's and CDP's rulings, agreed by six Ministers for the Armed Forces and two Heads of the Civil Service.

The reader is invited to consider the reasons for this consistent pattern of illegal behaviour among senior staff and Ministers. Also, please consider the passage of time between CHART and the Nimrod Review (17 years), and the fact CHART noted failings going back to 1980; and ask why no corrective action was taken. If it had been taken, would accidents have been prevented?

The rulings

Minister for the Armed Forces (Andrew Robathan MP) and Head of the Civil Service (Sir Robert Kerslake, and his successor, Sir Jeremy Heywood) have confirmed in writing it is a disciplinary offence to refuse to obey a direct order to make a false declaration about financial probity and airworthiness. To make such a false declaration is to commit fraud. In the same letters, they have ruled it is not an offence to instruct staff to commit this fraud. This is consistent with the actions taken by DGSM(RAF) in December 1992 and the Chief of Defence Procurement in 2001.

Letter References:

a. DES TO 03202-2012 dated 28.11.12 in reply to letter to Min(AF)

b. DES Sec/03/05 dated 8.1.13 in reply to letter to Min(AF)

c. Unreferenced letter dated 8.1.13 signed by Sir Robert Kerslake

MoD reaffirmed these rulings in a Freedom of Information reply;

d. DE&S 04-06-13-145804-002 dated 1.7.13, signed by Mr Mark Bailey DE&S Secretariat

This last response contained the briefings to Min(AF) and Head of the Civil Service which prompted a., b. and c. above. These further claimed that there was no link between the failures reported by Haddon-Cave to the failures reported to him, despite them being precisely the same.

CHART Complete Report.pdf