NIMROD DISASTER REPORT – NOT THE WHOLE STORY?
By Julian Nettlefold
28 Oct 09. The BBC reported that an independent review into a fatal 2006 Nimrod crash, which killed 14 service personnel, has accused the MoD of sacrificing safety to cut costs.
The highly critical report, by Charles Haddon-Cave QC, said the Afghanistan crash occurred because of a “systemic breach” of the military covenant.
A safety review of the Nimrod MR2 carried out by the MoD, BAE Systems and QinetiQ was branded a “lamentable job”. Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth apologised to victims’ families. Fourteen crewmen, based at RAF Kinloss in Moray, died when the aircraft – XV230 – blew up after air-to-air refuelling over
Afghanistan when leaking fuel made contact with a hot air pipe. Graham Knight, whose son Ben died in the explosion, said his son and all the other servicemen “doing their job” in Afghanistan “a hundred per cent” had been let down by “those people who are behind them”. Joe Windall, whose son, also Joe, died on board the Nimrod, said the findings had been astonishing.
Caroline Wyatt, BBC defence correspondent, “The Nimrod review is the most devastating attack on the MoD and the defence industry in living memory. Its language is direct, its criticisms unsparing.“
Charles Haddon-Cave describes “deep organisational trauma” at the MoD as resulting from the strategic defence review of 1998.
Internal promotion resulted not from being on top of safety but from being on top of a budget. He recommends a host of solutions, including a new military airworthiness authority that is independent of the MoD. However, the alarming insights offered by the Nimrod Review will lead many to wonder if if such whole-scale change to the culture can be achieved – not least at a time when financial pressures are even greater than they were in 1998.
Nimrod report individuals criticised
“The inefficiencies of someone caused me to lose my son,” he said. Mr Haddon-Cave condemned the change of organisational culture within the MoD between 1998 and 2006, when financial targets came to distract from safety.
He quoted a former senior RAF officer who told his inquiry: “There was no doubt that the culture of the time had switched.
“In the days of the RAF chief engineer in the 1990s, you had to be on top of airworthiness.
“By 2004 you had to be on top of your budget if you wanted to get ahead.”
Mr Haddon-Cave’s report also criticised two RAF officers – Air Commodore George Baber, who was a group captain at the time, and Wing Commander Michael Eagles. Air Comdr Baber led the MoD integrated project team responsible for a safety review of the RAF’s Nimrods, which took place between 2001 and 2005.
The report’s author accused him of a “fundamental failure of leadership” in drawing up the “safety case” into potential dangers in the fleet.
Mr Haddon-Cave wrote: “He failed to give the NSC (Nimrod safety case) the priority it deserved. In doing so, he failed, in truth, to make safety his first priority.”
Graham Knight, who lost his son Ben, says that the accident could have been avoided. As head of air vehicle for the Nimrod, Wing Cdr
Michael Eagles was supposed to be in charge of managing production of the safety review.
The report found that he delegated the project “wholesale” to an MoD civilian worker who was too inexperienced and not competent enough to manage it.
It stated: “Michael Eagles failed to give adequate priority, care and personal attention to the NSC task.
“He failed properly to utilise the resources available to him within the Nimrod IPT to ensure the airworthiness of the Nimrod fleet.”
Mr Ainsworth told the Commons the two officers had been moved to staff posts