DID NON-SPECIFIC WIRING CAUSE THE NIMROD EXPLOSION?
By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE
04 Dec 07. The MoD published the BOI report into the tragic loss of Nimrod
XV230 in which 14 servicemen lost their lives on 2 September 2006. 2. The Board of Inquiry consisted of 2 aircrew each with over 20 years’ experience of Nimrod operations and an engineer with 33 years’ of aircraft engineering experience. The Department of Transport’s Air Accident Investigation Board conducted a parallel investigation and was involved from the earliest stages. Technical experts from other government departments and independent scientific and technical companies were also consulted.
A number of journalists at the briefing on December 4th by Group Captain Nick Sharpe, President of the Board of Inquiry expressed concern at the outcome of his brief. If the Board had decided that fuel leak was the cause, why had another Inquiry been initiated headed by a QC and why were the aircraft still flying? (See PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS)
What was made perfectly clear by the result was that Nimrod XV230 was the fifth oldest in the fleet, and leaked fuel in large quantities. The Inquiry concluded that the explosion was caused by fuel dripping onto a hot (400 degree C)Engine Crossfeed Pipe entering the airframe via No. 7 Tank Dry Bay, which had been extended to the rear of the fuselage via to ensure cooling for new electrical equipment, presumably the console for the L-3 WESCAM camera? This, since the accident has since been disconnected on the fleet.
But, we should put the matter of fuel leaks in perspective – all aircraft leak fuel, many such as the SR-71 Blackbird, were designed to leak fuel on the ground as the fuel tanks only became completely sealed at high speed. The other point to be noted is that all the Nimrod fleet have been flying with Air-to-Air refuelling systems since 1983 and modified in 1989 to accommodate the Tristar – none of the rest of the fleet have exploded in such a manner?
The L-3 WESCAM Camera
Thus, BATTLESPACE concludes that the problem could be equipment fitted after the new refuelling system and more recently – the L-3 WESCAM Camera?
In 2003 under a UOR the RAF fitted five Nimrods with L-3 WESCAM cameras, importantly, on the starboard wing – the source of the explosion. Sources suggest that this work was carried out in 36 hours at RAF Lyneham. We understand all twelve have now been fitted. The reason for this UOR was the lack of UAV coverage in Afghanistan, thus the Nimrods became a substitute before the introduction of the Reapers this year. We have asked the MoD for clarification of this as below:
1. When was the L-3 Wescam camera installed?
2. Who installed it?
3. Where was it installed?
4. What type of wiring was used, was it approved wiring?
5. How long did it take?
6. How much did it cost?
The MoD has yet to respond.
Thus, the camera fit would require wiring to enter the fuselage, we suggest, through the very same No. 7 Tank Dry Bay as was noted as the source of the fires. No doubt, due to the flash point of JP5, the hot pipe was the only source of heat capable of igniting fuel. But why have not other Nimrods exploded through such an incident?
Sources close to BATTLESPACE suggest that the use of non-specific wiring is a major cause of mid-air explosions in aircraft. Two such crashes, one a KC-135 explosion in 1979 was put down to wiring as was the tragic September crash of Swissair MD-11 Flight 111 loss in September 2000 where it was recommended:
10 Nov 2000, CBC News reported that, ‘Canadian and U.S. officials investigating the September crash of Swissair Flight 111 are urgently recommending that both governments order inspections of some wiring aboard Boeing MD-11 airplanes. The recommendation comes after examination of the wreckage of Flight 111, which
crashed in the sea off Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia with the loss of all 229
passengers and cre