Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Justice... of a sorts.

With all the inward media navel-gazing, positioning and lies in the media at the moment, it is hard to discover information on other stories. Not a single MP asked a question about the improved unemployment figures during PMQs, and the media are ignoring that MPs have just voted a £9 billion increase in our funding to the IMF. Everything has been subsumed beneath a relatively trivial media story.

There is one story today that deserves more column inches, however. It is a story of authorities diverting blame onto two innocent people so that they would not have to answer difficult questions.

In 1994 a Chinook helicopter carrying 29 souls from Northern Ireland crashed into high ground above the Mull of Kintyre lighthouse. The weather was foggy at the time, and a 1995 board of inquiry found the two pilots guilty of gross negligence. A simple stone memorial overlooking the sea marks the point of impact.

Fortunately the pilots' families and the ComputerWeekly newspaper were not willing to let the verdict lie. They noted that the day before the crash, test pilots at Boscombe Down refused to fly that particular class of Chinook helicopter due to problems with the FADEC engine-control software. Other problems with the helicopter were reported in ComputerWeekly's comprehensive 1999 report.

They have fought the authorities on this case for years, tenaciously working towards clearing the pilots' names. 

Yet successive governments refused to accept strong evidence that refuted the board of inquiry's results. Then in 2010 new evidence was found - unbelievably a document dated nine months before the crash showed that the 'positively dangerous' faults within the engines' software could cause them to fail without pilot input.

We will never know what happened on board the helicopter that night, but for over a decade it has been obvious that we could not be sure that it was the pilots' fault. So it is with relief that I hear that Defence Secretary Liam Fox has announced that the pilots have been cleared of all wrong doing. It is, eventually, the correct verdict.

ComputerWeekly deserve to be congratulated for their work on this story. Let us hope that the current phone-hacking furore does not prevent the media from pursuing such stories in the future.

1 comment:

Alan Sloman said...

Well said, David