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NIM, vicinity Kandahar Afghanistan, 2006

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Summary
On 2 September 2006, a UK Royal Air Force (RAF) Nimrod, engaged in operations over Afghanistan experienced a fuel-fed bomb bay fire shortly after completing air-to-air refuelling. The fire spread and the aircraft exploded in flight before the crew were able to land at Kandahar. The Investigation concluded that the fuel leak had been the result of a series of systemic failures to ensure continued airworthiness of the aircraft type.
Event Details
When September 2006
Actual or Potential
Event Type
Airworthiness, Fire Smoke and Fumes, Loss of Control
Day/Night Day
Flight Conditions VMC
Flight Details
Aircraft BAE SYSTEMS Nimrod
Operator Royal Air Force
Domicile United Kingdom
Type of Flight Military/State
Intended Destination Kandahar International Airport
Take off Commenced Yes
Flight Airborne Yes
Flight Completed No
Flight Phase Manoeuvring
MNV
Location - Airport
Airport vicinity Kandahar International Airport
FIRE
Tag(s) Fire-Fuel origin
LOC
Tag(s) Airframe Structural Failure,
Significant Systems or Systems Control Failure
EPR
Tag(s) MAYDAY declaration
AW
System(s) Fuel
Contributor(s) Component Fault in service
Outcome
Damage or injury Yes
Aircraft damage Hull loss
Non-aircraft damage Yes
Injuries None"None" is not in the list (Few occupants, Many occupants, Most or all occupants) of allowed values for the "Injuries" property.
Fatalities Most or all occupants ()
Causal Factor Group(s)
Group(s) Aircraft Operation,
Aircraft Technical
Safety Recommendation(s)
Group(s) Aircraft Operation,
Aircraft Airworthiness
Investigation Type
Type Independent

Description

On 2 September 2006, a UK Royal Air Force (RAF) Nimrod, engaged in operations over Afghanistan experienced a bomb bay fire shortly after completing air-to-air refuelling. The fire spread and the aircraft exploded in flight before the crew were able to land it at Kandahar.

Investigation

The RAF Board of Inquiry (BoI) identified the Probable Causes of the fire as:

  • The escape of fuel during AAR, occasioned by an overflow from no. 1 tank, or a leak from the fuel system (fuel coupling or pipe), led to an accumulation of fuel within the No. 7 tank dry bay. Although of lower probability, the fuel tank leak could have been caused by a hot air leak damaging fuel system seals.
  • The ignition of that fuel following contact with an exposed element of the aircraft's crossfeed/SCP pipework.

and identified the following five Contributory Factors:

  • The age of the Nimrod MR2's non-structural system components.
  • Nimrod MR2 maintenance policy in relation to fuel and hot air systems.
  • The lack of a fire detection and suppression system within the No 7 tank dry bay.
  • The fact that hazard analysis did not correctly categorize the potential threat to the aircraft caused by the collocation of fuel and hot air system components within the No 7 tank dry bay.
  • The formal incorporation of AAR capability within the Nimrod did not identify the full implications of successive changes to the fuel system and associated procedures.

On 28 October 2009, the Nimrod Review, also subsequently referred to as the "Haddon-Cave Report" after the name of the barrister who led the Inquiry set up by the UK Government to take a wider look at the context for the accident following the findings of the BOI and the subsequent civil inquest into the deaths of the service personnel on board the accident aircraft was published. It concluded that the UK MOD sacrificed safety to cut costs and identified a change of organisational culture within the MoD between 1998 and 2006 which was attributable to financial targets being allowed to prejudice safety.

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Further Reading

Prior to publication, some parts of the full BoI report were redacted (removed) - principally text relating to confidential operational matters or giving the identity of personnel. The Report is published in 11 separate documents available on the MoD website.