Reconnaissance Plane Lost Over Afghanistan In 2006
Ahead of a formal inquest into the September 2, 2006 explosion
of a Royal Air Force Nimrod MR2 reconnaissance plane over
Afghanistan, this week the families of the 14 lost servicemen
examined an identical aircraft, to learn more about what likely led
to the accident.
As ANN reported, an RAF
inquiry into the accident determined a probable fuel leak, combined
with inadequate fire suppression systems onboard the 37-year-old
plane, led to the explosion. The aircraft had conducted air-to-air
refueling shortly before fires were reported; witnesses on the
ground told investigators they saw a small fire near the back of
the Nimrod, before the conflagration enveloped the aircraft.
The Guardian reports the victims' families visited RAF
Brize Norton on Tuesday, where they saw a Nimrod on display, as
well as a partly-stripped engine.
Those parties returned to the courtroom Wednesday, where family
members heard the cockpit recording of the aircraft's final
moments. The Nimrod's crew sent out a Mayday message soon after the
fires broke out, reports BBC News, and tried to make an emergency
landing before the aircraft exploded.
In an unusual step, the Ministry of Defence took responsibility
for the accident last December, following revelations of
substandard maintenance and inspection protocols on the aging
aircraft. Defence Secretary Des Browne also made a formal, public
That admission should make it easier to determine what families
will receive... but it hasn't made it any easier for them to come
to terms with the loss of their loved ones. As family members left
the courthouse Wednesday, many were in tears.
Oxfordshire deputy coroner Andrew Walker is handling the
inquest, which will determine compensation for those who lost
family members in the accident. Walker has a reputation for taking
a hard line with the military over such accidents.
"The distress it caused to the families cannot be quantified,"
Walker said Tuesday.
The inquest will last three weeks, including testimony from
about 40 witnesses. In the meantime, the Nimrods are still flying,
five years past their planned 2003 retirement date. The MoD is
still awaiting the replacement for the aged planes, the vastly
upgraded -- but significantly delayed, and overbudget -- Nimrod