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Tornado Service Inquiry

Volume 508: debated on Thursday 25 March 2010

I wish to inform the House today of the findings of the Royal Air Force service inquiry into the crash of the RAF Tornado F3, ZE 982, on 2 July 2009 into a mountainside in Argyll, Scotland. Tragically, both the pilot, Flight Lieutenant Kenneth Thompson, and the navigator, Flight Lieutenant Nigel Morton, were killed. Our deepest sympathies remain with their families and friends.

The purpose of a service inquiry is to establish the circumstances of the loss and to learn lessons from it; it does not seek to apportion blame. The service inquiry was convened on 3 July 2009 and has now presented its findings.

The service inquiry found that Tornado ZE 982 was the lead of a pair of Tornado F3 aircraft flying a routine low level training sortie out of RAF Leuchars on 2 July 2009. From the accident data recorder information available to them, the service inquiry was able to identify the sequence of airborne events and concluded that the cause of the accident was controlled flight into terrain due to insufficient turning room being available within the valley to complete the turn. Effectively, once the aircraft had entered into the final turn it was all but impossible to achieve the turn safely. As a consequence, the aircraft crashed into the north slope of Glen Kinglas, Argyll, 14 minutes after take-off. The second Tornado crew witnessed the crash and took immediate recovery action, in due course returning safely to RAF Leuchars. The service inquiry concluded that the aircraft’s flying control systems, engines and structure were serviceable and all critical systems operated correctly during the sortie and that there was no evidence to prove that any equipment issues caused the aircraft’s loss.

The inquiry findings serve to demonstrate that military flying is never without risk and that low level flying presents additional challenges.

The service inquiry panel made a total of 26 recommendations largely relating to aircrew training and check and assurance processes. These are being addressed and will be implemented, as appropriate, as soon as is practicable.

A redacted version of the Inquiry findings will be placed in the Library of the House today. It will also be made available on the MOD internet site and can be found by following the link below: