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DANGER JET'S HRH FLYPAST; Families furious at move.

Byline: By MARK AITKEN

FURIOUS families of servicemen killed in a Nimrod crash slammed a decision to allow one of them to take part in a Trooping the Colour flypast yesterday.

The jet took part in the Queen's birthday celebrations in London despite a coroner ruling just three weeks ago that the ageing aircraft fleet is not airworthy and should be grounded.

Fourteen servicemen - 12 of whom were based at RAF Kinloss in Moray - died when their spy plane exploded over Afghanistan two years ago.

One of the relatives furious about the Buckingham Palace flypast, just 1500 feet over the city, was Graham Knight, whose son Sergeant Ben Knight died in the Nimrod tragedy. said: "We have gone through a three-week inquest in which the coroner said the planes were not airworthy.

"Then they fly it over the most populated part of the country.

"It is like sticking two fingers up at the coroner and the Ministry of Defence, saying we can do what we want to do."

Forres-based aviation expert David Morgan, who has flown with Nimrod crews for 20 years, said: "As an act of respect to families, I don't think the MoD should have included the Nimrod.

"The MoD are being pig-headed in face of considerable concern."

Angus Robertson, Moray MP and SNP leader at Westminster, said: "This is clearly aimed at trying to restore confidence in the Nimrod fleet. I would prefer that every effort was made to ensure the planes have passed their safety checks."

The crew of the 37-year-old Nimrod died when it exploded shortly after air-to-air refuelling.

At an inquest into the disaster last month, coroner Andrew Walker said he was satisfied the design modifications for the aircraft contained a "serious flaw" that made it unsafe.

However, Armed Forces Minister Bob Ainsworth rejected his ruling and insisted that Nimrods were safe to fly.

The Nimrod was one of 55 aircraft taking part in the royal flypast to mark the Queen's 82nd birthday, attended by Princes William and Harry, Prince Charles and Camilla and other top royals.

An MoD spokesman said: "The Nimrod is saving lives in operational theatres every day.

"If it was not safe we would not be flying it. It is safe with the measures we have taken and that is why we will not be grounding the fleet."

CAPTION(S):

Royal troop: Left to right, Prince William, Prince Harry, Princess Anne, Vice Admiral Timothy Laurence (back), the Queen, Prince Edward, the Countess of Wessex, Prince Philip, Peter Phillips, Autumn Phillips, the Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles watch the planes; Salute: The Nimrod is flanked by two Tornadoes during the flypast
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 15, 2008
Words:441
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