Sunday, 6 August 2017

AAIB and Lockerbie

On this date in 1990, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) submitted its report on the destruction of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie to the Secretary of State for Transport, Cecil Parkinson. The 58-page report was prepared by a team headed by M M Charles and can be read here. Also worth reading is a detailed article by K P R Smart, AAIB Chief Inspector of Air Accidents, entitled The Lockerbie Investigation: Understanding of the Effects of the Detonation of ‘Improvised Explosive Devices’ on Aircraft Pressure Cabins that was published in September 1997.

1 comment:

  1. There is a real oddity in this document. It's in appendix F, paragraph 7, page F-3.

    The lack of direct blast damage on most of the floor panel in the heavily distorted area, of the type seen on the floor edge member and lower portions of the aft face structural members, would seem to indicate that this had been protected by, presumably, a piece of luggage. [...] This supported the view that the item of baggage containing the IED had been positioned fairly close to the floor but not actually placed upon it.

    This statement echoes (or rather prefigures) the insistence by Feraday and other RARDE personnel that the bomb was not in the suitcase on the bottom of the stack of luggage. Despite Feraday insisting (under oath at the FAI) that the two groups worked independently and didn't communicate, it seems incontrovertible that this conclusion was a mutual one - either discussed together or the AAIB team simply taking on board the RARDE assertion.

    The AAIB team did not of course have access to the additional evidence that proves the bomb was indeed in the suitcase on the bottom of the stack (albeit probably angled up into the overhang rather than sitting flat on the floor), but the fact is that the conclusion as stated does not follow from the evidence to hand. It's impossible to tell from the condition of the container floor whether the bomb suitcase was on the bottom layer or not.

    Analysis of the additional evidence shows conclusively that the bomb was on the bottom layer. Subsequent experimentation carried out in about 2015 has demonstrated that the container floor is much more severely damaged than would have happened had there been another case under the bomb suitcase. The statement is simply false.

    It intrigues me mightily why it was felt to be such an important point to get into the report. The first part (before the ellipsis) was taken verbatim from a preliminary report written in April 1989 by Peter Claiden. The second part seems to have been added when the final 1990 report was written. It's all part of the general push to get it accepted that the bomb wasn't in a suitcase seen at Heathrow an hour before the feeder flight landed (on the floor of the container) but must have been in one on the second layer and so must have come in on the feeder flight.

    RARDE were all at it - Feraday, Hayes, Cullis and Peel. The AAIB were at it - Claiden, Protheroe and Charles. And the police investigators were at it - Orr, S Henderson and Bell. It looks co-ordinated to me. Who was orchestrating this? Who was so concerned to avoid the conclusion that the bomb had been smuggled past Heathrow security that they were content for the investigation to chase a complete red herring so long as it wasn't on British soil.

    Cecil Parkinson? Magaret Thatcher?