Sunday, 21 September 2008

Chinook ZD576 Crash on Kintyre, 2 June 1994

The Chinook crash occurred about 6pm near the lighthouse on the Mull of Kintyre; the 29 victims included four crew and some of Northern Ireland's top security and intelligence personnel. Confusion still surrounds the cause of the crash and the responsibility of the two pilots is disputed.

William Ross, former East Londonderry MP, put down a series of questions in 2001.


Mr. William Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Chinook helicopters were flown (a) into and (b) out of Northern Ireland on 2 June 1994; and what their flight times and routes were. [150410]
Mr. Spellar [holding answer 14 February 2001]: No Chinook helicopters flew into Northern Ireland on 2 June 1994. One flew out, that being Chinook ZD 576 which left RAF Aldergrove at 17.42 hours, en route to Fort George.
This and other answers tell part of the story about Chinooks [edit: 'or similar twin-rotor helicopters'] flying in Northern Ireland that day. The ZD576 had followed a route from Aldergrove that took it down one of the glens of Antrim, over Carnlough, past Garron Point and on towards the western coastline of Kintyre. The other Chinook based at Aldergrove was a Mark I and it was listed as out of action.

My late parents and I were driving east from Coleraine towards Bushmills about 30 minutes before the crash. It had been a very wet afternoon and the sky was still very dark for the time of day. A Chinook with a patchwork quilt style camouflage flew across our path just after we reached the top of Kilgrain hill. It was flying low in a northerly direction along the line of the Ballyversal road and by the time we reached the junction with that road the Chinook was just skimming the high ground to our left. There have been unconfirmed reports that the distinctive sound of a Chinook was heard over Bushmills.

No one has been able, so far, to explain the ownership of this Chinook or its role that day. I checked out the camouflage with someone who worked in the paintshop at RAF Odiham and he explained that this style of camouflage would most likely have been used by a special operations Chinook.

Timeline

I don't know for certain whether the aircraft was fit for purpose, but as it had just 57.15 flying hours on the clock since the upgrade and it had the following problems, I would hazard a guess that it (ZD576) was not fit.

8 Apr 94 - Returned from Boeing. Has a FADEC related problem.

21 Apr 94 - Torque mismatch of 40% during transit to hover.

22 Apr 94 - No 1 engine is replaced.

26 Apr 94 - No torque indication to either engine with the engine control levers at the flight idle position. No 1 engine is replaced again.

3 May 94 - GPS failure on the RNS252. Transmitter is replaced.

5 May 94 - GPS fails again. This time the whole thing is replaced.

9 May 94 - No GPS feed to the RNS 252. The transmitter is, again, replaced.

10 May 94 - Thrust balance spring pallet detaches from the collective lever due to a bonding failure. Thrust & yaw assembly was replaced.

17 May 94 - During descent to low level the No 1 engine emergency power caption light illumunates three times. Engine temperature went beyond normal levels. No 1 engine was removed and rebuilt. Part of the FADEC system was returned to the manufacturer for examination.

26 May 94 - Numerous warning lights illuminate, including a 'master' warning light and a No 2 engine failure notification. Aircraft diverted.

31 May 94 - Aircraft delivered to Aldergrove. IR jammer has a problem and is replaced.

1 Jun 94 - During the first flight, there is a problem with the PTIT guage. It is also noted that there is interference on the UHF/AM radio, caused by the SuperTans equipment. Neither problem could be recreated on the ground.

Not to mention, of course that the AAIB investigators could not positively determine pre-impact serviceability.