Analysis: RAF’s warhorses involved in a number of worrying incidents in recent years
Tornadoes are warhorses but they have been involved in a number of worrying incidents in recent years.
There are a number of scenarios which investigators must look into to find out what caused this latest crash.
Firstly, we would need to know what height they were at, and what speed they were travelling at, when this incident happened.
They were on a training exercise, but we don’t know yet from the Ministry of Defence whether this was a low-flying exercise over the sea.
The Tornado GR4 is capable of bombing from 15,000 feet, or can fly just 50-100 feet above the water.
The two planes could have collided, with the crew rescued having ejected just in time.
But they may have been flying in formation and something happened to one, causing a collision.
There is also a high chance of blankets of fog in the area, so there is a lot to find out before we can discover what really happened.
The Martin Baker ejector seat used is the world’s best, giving crews the best chance.
It is flash and bang stuff, but when ejecting you have to look at factors such as the height and angle. These aircraft have a lot of history, going as far back as the 1960s.
But there have been some incidents recently which perhaps cause concern about their age.
The Ministry of Defence is looking to phase the aircraft out soon.
There was an incident near Gairloch last year, and also another involving a Tornado F3 in Glen Kinglas, Argyll, in 2009 where the crew were killed.
It would be good to know what type of accident recording-data these aircraft now have.
We know they do have one, but they are not as sophisticated as on civilian aircraft.
The cause of the crash will be down the conclusions reached by the MoD’s own Military Aviation Authority, although they could call in the Air Accidents Investigation Branch to assist, as they did with the Mull of Kintyre Chinook crash.
• Jim Ferguson is an aviation expert based in Aberdeen
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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