Controller not to blame, court told

AN AIR traffic controller accused of causing the deaths of two US fighter pilots breached no regulations and could not have foreseen the tragedy, a court martial heard today .

AN AIR traffic controller accused of causing the deaths of two US fighter pilots breached no regulations and could not have foreseen the tragedy, a court martial heard today .

Closing the case for the defence, Michael Jones QC said the lead pilot was entirely to blame for the accident and questioned the justice of Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Williams being found guilty of a crime.

Williams, 47, of RAF Leuchars, Fife, is charged with causing the deaths of Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Hyvonen, 40, and Captain Kirk Jones, 27.

It is alleged that Williams told the Americans to fly below 6,500ft when they requested the "minimum vectoring altitude'.


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The two pilots died when their F15s crashed into Ben Macdui in the Cairngorms during a snowstorm on March 26, 2001.

Appearing before the court martial in Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute, Williams denies the charge and an alternative charge of professional negligence.

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Mr Jones told the court that Williams had not broken any rules on the day of the crash.

He said: "Flight Lieutenant Williams breached no regulations.

On who was to blame for the tragedy, Mr Jones said: "In the factual context of this case the entire responsibility lies with Lieutenant Colonel Hyvonen (the lead pilot) when we are looking at this viewed through the eyes of an air traffic controller.

"The pilot was wholly responsible for terrain clearance."

Addressing the jury, Mr Jones asked: "Where is the justice to be found in this prosecution if Flight Lieutenant Williams breached no regulations when he was operating a service in which the rules tell him he has no responsibility for the terrain clearance of the aircraft?'

He also said that the transmission may not have been clear, while he was also distracted by comments made by his counterpart at Lossiemouth while he was attempting to handle the radar cover of the jets.

"The pilots' knew where they were going, they knew they were surrounded by high ground and could see the hills were in cloud.

"The prosecution's theory seems to be 'if it does not fit, fudge it'," Mr Jones added.

Mr Jones also said the prosecution seemed to have suggested "they flew into a mountain because they were told to do so".

Explaining the defence's position, Mr Jones said: "He mistook the snow as white sky underneath and beyond that cloud and flew on into the mountain."

Mr Jones told the jury, of six senior RAF officers on the 19th day of the hearing, that they should acquit Williams.

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