Helicopter Crash Report To Clear Pilots

An official report into a chinook helicopter crash in the Mull of Kintyre back in 1994 is due to clear the names of the 2 pilots blamed for the accident.

Seventeen years after the RAF's worst peacetime accident, Defence Secretary Liam Fox will today announce the findings of the independent review of the evidence in the House of Commons.

It is reported that the panel, chaired by Lord Philip, a retired Scottish judge, will say that the RAF was wrong to find the Chinook pilots - Flight Lieutenants Jonathan Tapper and Richard Cook - guilty of "gross negligence''.

It follows years of campaigning by the men's families, backed by politicians of all parties, to clear their names.

Flight ZD 576 crashed into the side of a mountain on the Scottish island in dense fog on the night of June 2, 1994, killing all 29 people on board, including the four crew.

The passengers included some of the UK's leading counter-terrorism experts who were flying from Belfast to attend a conference in Inverness.

After an RAF board of inquiry found the most probable cause was the selection of the wrong rate of climb over the island, a report by two air marshals - Sir William Wratten and Sir John Day - concluded the pilots were ``negligent to a gross degree''.

However a Scottish fatal accident inquiry concluded it was impossible to establish the exact cause of the crash, while the RAF verdict was also criticised in separate House of Commons and House of Lords committee reports.

Successive defence secretaries resisted pressure to reopen the case, but in May last year, Dr Fox announced he was ordering a review of the evidence, honouring a pledge made while the Conservatives were in opposition.

There was some anger among the families of the victims after the report's conclusions appeared to have been leaked over the weekend.

The Ministry of Defence said it would be "inappropriate'' to comment ahead of the official publication.