Armed Forces International News - November 2007

Investigation Begins into Second RAF Nimrod Fuel Leak

Posted by Paul Fiddian on 11/11/2007 - 19:47:03

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An incident that took place earlier this week in southern Afghanistan has renewed safety concerns over the Royal Air Force’s Nimrod MR2 reconnaissance aircraft. On the 5th November, a Nimrod issued a mayday alert after its crew noticed fuel was entering its bomb bay – which was empty at the time. According to the BBC, the crew’s flight report described the bomb bay doors as being “wet with fuel”. The aircraft involved went on to carry out a safe landing.

In light, however, of the incident, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed a thorough investigation has begun.

The report states: "The bomb bay heating mixing chamber cladding was soaked with fuel. Fuel was also observed on the pipework on the roof of the bomb bay area."

Previous Nimrod Fuel Leak Caused Aircraft Explosion and Killed Crew

The situation seems to mirror a fatal incident which occurred in September 2006. A fuel leak, again into the bomb bay, caused another Nimrod to explode close to Kandahar. All 14 people on board perished.

Both last year’s incident, and the less serious one reported here, occurred as the Nimrods were engaged in air-to-air refuelling. During this process, fuel is fed from tanker to recipient aircraft at a high velocity, entering a number of tanks on board.

In a release issued by the Ministry, confirmation was provided of a new incident in which a Nimrod had been involved. It added that after a preliminary assessment, the air-to-air refuelling system had been isolated.

In recent days, the Nimrod has flown to its launch base pending further analysis.

Nimrods Banned from Air-to-Air Refuelling Pending Investigation

A spokesman from the MoD added: "As a precautionary measure air-to-air refuelling has been suspended for all Nimrod aircraft, until the results of a full investigation have been considered.

"As always the safety of our crews remains paramount."

The MoD Statement also referred to the previous incident, regarding which, a report is due for issue imminently:

"The Board of Inquiry to determine the cause of the tragic loss of Nimrod XV230 and those on board is nearing conclusion", the statement read.

"The Board's findings will be given to the families of those killed before we make any public comment and until that time it would be inappropriate for us to comment further."

The Nimrod – developed from the de Havilland Comet jet airliner – initially entered service with the Royal Air Force four decades ago. While its replacement ought to have occurred in the 1990s, recent missions have seen the Nimrod being used in operations over Afghanistan and Iraq – longer missions and in more extreme conditions than it has been used to.

The updated Nimrod MR4 – the MR2’s replacement – has suffered delays and setbacks, but should now enter service in two years’ time.

Source – Armed Forces International’s Aviation Expert

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