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New safety equipment won't be fitted to Hawk jets; MoD says system is too dear.

Byline: Eryl Crump

JET planes used to train RAF pilots in North Wales will not be fitted with new safety equip-ment designed to stop them crashing into mountains.

The decision has been made despite an official investigation that recommended t he equipment should be fitted in Hawk trainers.

About 70 Hawks operate from RAF Valley on Anglesey. The Ministry of Defence yesterday revealed the recommendations, made after a Hawk crash in Cumbria three years ago, had not been implemented because the upgrade would not be ``cost effective''. Last year there was a string of inci-dents in North Wales.In September a Hawk aircraft crashed into trees, narrowly missing a farmhouse while making an approach to RAF Mona, near Llangefni. Just days before a Hawk was damaged during landing at Llanbedr air-field, near Harlech, though there is no suggestion the new safety equipment could have prevented either incident. Politicians and Welsh campaign groups attacked the MoD's decision. MEP Eurig Wyn said he was astounded safety was being ignored on grounds of cost. He said: ``The Hawk aircraft willstill be flying above North Wales for a considerable period and w ith the pros-pect of war in Iraq looming, there will undoubtedly be an increase in the amount of flying from Valley. ``The authorities should reconsider this decision as soon as possible.''

Almost a quarter of the 180 Hawks which were built for the RAF have been lost in accidents. But the RAF insists the aircraft has a good safety record and that the loss rate should be set in t he context of the aircraft's 25 years of service. The MoD said yesterday: ``The Board of Inquiry recommended that a Ground Proximity Warning System or a Radar Altimeter was fitted to the Hawk aircraft; and that a voice chan-nel be incorporated in t he Hawk Accident Data Recorder. ``Following an extensive feasibility study it was decided not to implement these recommendations. This was because they were not considered cost effective options given t he remaining life of the aircraft. Under current plans the existing Hawk aircraft will begin to be replaced in April 2007.

``The technical specifications for the new Advanced Jet Trainer will include the provision of modern s afety devices.'' The Celtic League, an Isle of Manbased pressure group that monitors allmilitary activity in t he area, claimedthe Hawk would remain in service longer than anticipated and urged a rethink. The League's general secretary Ber-nard Moffat said: ``The MoD's stance is extremely worrying and it is clear the Hawk trainer will operate, given thedelays usually incumbent to equipment renewal p rogrammes, for at least another decade..We believe the Minis-try of Defence owes a duty to both RAF aircrew and the communities over which they operate to ensure t hat their aircraft are fitted with the best equip-ment relevant to the minimisation of accidents.''


TRAINER: A Hawk jet flying low over RAF Valley
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 31, 2002
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