AFTER ALMOST 20 years of virtually accident-free flying with the Hercules, the RAF suffered a tragic blow on the afternoon of May 27 when an example en route from Lyneham to Lossiemouth crashed in a remote Scottish highland glen with the loss of all nine personnel. The aircraft was undertaking a routine low-flying exercise in clear weather and is believed to have flown into a hill in Glen Tilt, on the edge of the Grampian mountains, 10 miles (16km) north east of Blair Athol.
Three RAF helicopters, one from the RN, a 120 Sqn Nimrod MR.2 from Kinloss and two mountain rescue teams were involved in the search for survivors during the night — four bodies had been recovered by the next morning. Wreckage was spread over a relatively small area, with only the tail unit remaining intact, and a ten-mile radius, 10,000ft (3,048m) high exclusion zone was set up around the crash site by the RAF.
Despite heavy utilisation, the Hercules has had a very good safety record with the RAF — during the 26 years that the Lyneham Transport Wing’s 66 examples have been in service there have only been four write-offs. The first loss was XV180 on March 24, 1969 which crashed on approach to Fairford and was followed by the loss of XV216 on November 9, 1971 in the sea off Pisa, Italy, during a night exercise.
On September 12, 1972, XV194 was lost at Tromso, Norway when it veered off the runway on landing and XV198 crashed on September 12, 1973 at Colerne after entering a flat spin during a practise three-engine climb out.