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Defence: Grob Tutor Service Inquiry

Volume 716: debated on Thursday 7 January 2010

Statement

My honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Bill Rammell) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I wish to inform the House today of the findings of the Royal Air Force service inquiry into the accident involving two Grob Tutors operated by the RAF in south Wales on 11 February 2009. Tragically, this crash resulted in the deaths of two air cadets, 14 year-old Katie-Jo Davies and her cousin, 13 year-old Nikkita Walters, a volunteer reserve pilot, Flight Officer Hylton Price (Wing Commander Retired), and Flight Lieutenant Andrew Marsh. Our deepest sympathies remain with their families and friends. I know that the RAF community was deeply saddened and shocked by this terrible accident.

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 the 12 February 2009 and has now presented its findings.

It found that on the morning of 11 February 2009 Grob Tutor G-BYUT and G-BYVN of the University of Wales Air Squadron (UWAS) No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) departed MoD St Athan to conduct air experience flights (AEF) for the two cadets. Radar trace recordings show the flight path of both aircraft manoeuvring through different turns and heights until 10.46Z, when both paths intersected and the crash occurred.

The service inquiry panel concluded that the cause of the accident was the controlled flight of both aircraft into the same airspace at the same time as a result of both aircraft captains being unaware of the position and proximity of the other aircraft. Either the pilots did not see each other or they did not do so until it was too late. A number of contributory, probable and aggravating factors were identified, including technical and procedural factors. The service inquiry panel made a total of 29 recommendations to address these factors. These are being implemented as soon as is practicable.

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

www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/AboutDefence/CorporatePublications/BoardsOfInquiry/

The Ministry of Defence will co-operate fully with the coroner who will hold an inquest in due course.