The wife of a tragic RAF Lossiemouth pilot who died in the Tornado crash over the Moray Firth has broken her slience – and vowed to sue the Ministry of Defence.
Fiona Bailey, wife of Squadron Leader Samuel Bailey, said the 2012 collision had “devastated” the family and that the MoD had now admitted liability for the incident.
Her comments follow the publication yesterday of the Military Aviation Authority’s service inquiry into the crash, which killed three Moray-based personnel.
The investigators found 17 contributory factors which led to the incident – including the lack of an effective care plan for Sqn Ldr Bailey, who had developed a fear of flying at certain heights.
Mrs Bailey – formerly a staff member at the Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre staff at RAF Kinloss – was stood down from the Tornado crash rescue operation after it was discovered her husband was one of the missing crew.
Speaking for the first time about the crash, she said: “Getting this admission of liability is extremely important to me and our daughter in that my husband’s good name has been maintained and no fault has been attached to his actions in the incident.
“Our lives were devastated back in July 2012 and we have waited a long time to find out exactly what went wrong on that day.
“We are relieved that we will now finally see some justice for what happened.”
Legal firm Irwin Mitchell Scotland is acting for the family of Sdn Ldr Bailey, who was originally from Nottingham.
Elaine Russell, a partner the firm, said: “Two years have passed since this tragic incident and now the MoD has admitted that they breached their duty of care to Squadron Leader Bailey who sadly died in the collision.
“We are now gathering further information with a view to settling the cases for his family as quickly as possible to give them closure and allow them to move on with their lives.
“We will also continue to push the MoD on behalf of our other clients involved in this case so that they can also seek justice for their loss.
“It is worrying that the MAA report has been able to identify more than 50 recommendations to prevent future crashes and the families involved are both relieved and angry at the findings in relation to the collision warning system.
“Ms Bailey feels vindicated that her husband was not deemed to be at fault for the crash but is naturally concerned that there were many chances to implement a warning system which may have prevented the accident.
“We now hope the MoD and RAF will take on-board the recommendations in the report as quickly as possible to improve flight safety for our armed forces personnel.”
Sdn Ldr Bailey, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, warned medical staff that he had reached “crisis point”, just weeks before the collision.
He suffered from dizziness, fear of falling, sweaty palms, dry mouth, abdominal discomfort and feeling disabled while flying at medium height, and was also suffering anxiety whilst on the ground, the inquiry found.
He was passed fit to fly despite telling colleagues he felt like he was on a “knife-edge”.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) told military investigators it would not have allowed someone with the same symptoms to fly.
The director-general of the Military Aviation Authority (MAA), which carried out the inquiry, criticised the “inadequate handling” of his condition and highlighted similarities with a 2009 mid-air crash between a glider and RAF aircraft over Oxfordshire which killed a teenage air cadet and his instructor.
Air Marshal Richard Garwood said: “It is disappointing that, in this case, lessons appear not to have been learned from the 2009 Tutor-Cirrus accident and once again we find ourselves with a crew member involved in an accident whose fitness to fly was questionable but continued to do so due to gaps in the interrelationship between medical and flying executive staffs.”
He added that on the balance of probabilities, the medical condition did not have any known or significant bearing on the collision, however, Sqn Ldr Bailey’s decision to fly low without radar was “not commensurate with his recognised experience and professional standing”.
“I agree with the panel’s conclusion that this was a contributory fact since although it did not directly cause the accident it did make it more likely,” Air Marshal Garwood said.
Westminster SNP Leader Angus Robertson who represents RAF Lossiemouth as Moray MP said: “We need urgent clarification from the Ministry of Defence about liability and responsibility. Three personnel died in the collision, and as we have learnt it could have been avoided had the MOD installed a collision warning system.
“I strongly support a Fatal Accident Inquiry as there is a strong public interest in getting to the bottom of this whole tragedy.