Editorial: Families of lost airmen deserve every stone being turned

Sunday Supplement
The editor voices his views on Moray’s most topical events of the past week.

Nobody who was present in Lossiemouth on that fateful day in 2012 when news filtered through of a tragedy over the Moray Firth failed to be affected in some way.

The veil of silence over the entire community was palpable as realisation dawned that three airmen from RAF Lossiemouth would not be returning home.

Loss of brave soldiers, sailors and airmen are nothing new to the wider Moray community, where through the years disaster in war and peace have resulted in the true spirit of our people coming to the fore, as they join as one to support the family and friends of those we lost.

We were again reminded of the tragedy when the news came through this week that there was to be no Fatal Accident Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the loss of Hywel Poole, Adam Saunders and Sam Bailey, three airmen serving with 12(Bomber) Squadron who did not return home on that fateful day in July 2012.

It would be easy to have some sympathy with the view that a Military Aviation Authority (MAA) inquiry had already reported its damning findings. The Ministry of Defence admitted failings on their part that contributed to the accident, and subsequently took action on 42 recommendations put forward by the MAA report.

The decision by the Crown Office not to order a FAI was based on the reasoning that to do so would only have repeated the “highly detailed” MAA investigation.

On reading that I was initially inclined to agree – until I thought of the families.

The MAA report was indeed detailed, but coming as it did from a Military inquiry one has to wonder if every single detail has indeed been fully explored. Surely it would be just and proper for a civil inquiry to look one final time at the circumstances?

If they reach the same conclusions then well and good – on the other hand, not holding a FAI means that the families of these lost airmen may always harbour doubts.

College Shocker

Another story that drew more questions than answers was the surprise sacking – or perhaps not a sacking – of the Principal of Moray College UHI.

Regardless if he was sacked, invited to leave (is there a difference?) or left by mutual consent, it was a mystery how the College, having taken some considerable time to identify the correct man or woman for the job, then decided after less than nine months that they had got it all wrong.

It has been implied that Frank Hughes was ‘not a good fit’, there have been whispers that senior managers at the College were unhappy – suggestions even that some were celebrating his demise.

Now it happens all the time in every walk of life – mistakes are made. But when they are made in such a high-profile and important position in our community do we not deserve a little bit more detail on why the College is once again missing a chief pilot?

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