Saturday, 19 July 2014

Second Lockerbie air accident investigator speaks about MH17

[Another of the air accident investigators involved at Lockerbie has been talking about the MH17 crash. What follows is excerpted from an article in today’s edition of The Daily Telegraph:]

The painstaking process of investigating the Malaysian Airlines disaster will be made immeasurably more complicated by the crash site’s location in the middle of a country on the brink of civil war, experts said.

The investigation will require scrupulous mapping of debris - to help give a clear picture of how and why the fuselage broke up - followed by recovery of every piece of wreckage and possible forensic examination for traces of explosives.

Peter Claiden, who was a senior engineer in the AAIB investigation into the 1988 Lockerbie disaster, said: “There really needs to be a proper, professional investigation if they want to secure evidence from the wreckage.

“It was difficult enough to achieve at Lockerbie so the problems facing investigators in what is effectively a war zone are very serious indeed.”

Mr Claiden, who was responsible for reconstructing part of Pan Am Flight 103 after it was blown up mid-air above the Scottish town killing all 259 onboard and 11 on the ground, said: “The first problem will be to try to identify how widespread the wreckage is.

“They will need to find the infrastructure to take away the wreckage and store it safely.

“If the aircraft was destroyed by a missile, in an ideal world you must get all that wreckage and reassemble it. Then you might get an idea of the origin of the disaster.”

Air accident investigators must sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to establish the cause of a disaster - as in the case of Lockerbie which became Britain’s largest ever murder inquiry.

Part of the fuselage of Pan Am Boeing 747 - which exploded above Lockerbie in December 1988 - was reconstructed in a hangar in Farnborough, Hants, by the AAIB, where it remained for 24 years while diplomatic and legal machinations wore on.

The reconstruction was essential in proving Flight 103 broke up mid-air after the detonation of Semtex high explosive concealed in a Toshiba radio cassette recorder, which was contained in a Samsonite suitcase in the aircraft’s hold.

Fragments of the items, plus a long-delay electronic timer made by a Swiss firm, MEBO, were presented in the trial of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi held under Scottish law in Camp Zeist, the Netherlands, in 2000.

1 comment:

  1. Let's hope the people involved in this new investigation do a more professional job than Mr. Claiden did 25 years ago.

    In April 1989 he stated that the floor of the baggage container had been protected by "presumably, a piece of luggage." This wasn't just wrong, it was speculation outwith his own area of competence.

    It was the first public articulation of the false reasoning on the luggage positioning that led the investigation to Malta instead of to Heathrow. Mr. Claiden has some very serious questions to answer.