Coroner: UK Nimrod Fleet Not Airworthy

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A coroner who led an inquest regarding the September 2006 midair explosion of a Nimrod sea control aircraft has said the aircraft "like every other aircraft within the Nimrod fleet, was not airworthy," but the UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) does not have to comply the coroner's recommendations and likely won't. An RAF Board of Inquiry in December 2007 delivered a report that declared aging parts and lack of fire-suppression systems as contributing factors but in the end apparently served as a spark for investigations initiated by parents of some of the deceased fliers. Of all the parents, Graham Knight stood out for claiming to have e-mails from high-ranking officers that detailed problems with fuel leaks prior to the 2006 explosion and noted a 2005 recommendation from BAE Systems that fire-detection systems be installed on the aircraft. The assistant deputy coroner who led the inquest is now calling for the entire Nimrod fleet to be grounded, according to Defense Industry Daily. The UK MoD has taken measures it believes are satisfactory and will continue to fly the plane.

The UK MoD says it will continue to fly the Nimrod but has stopped air-to-air fueling and has ceased use of the "very hot air systems" in flight. According to the MoD, these measures remove the dangers in design noted by the coroner and along with enhanced maintenance and inspection procedures effectively ensure safe operation of the aircraft.