Controller expressed concern before F-15Cs crashed, court-martial is told
The Royal Air Force air traffic controller charged with contributing to the crash of two American fighter jets nearly two years ago expressed concern to a colleague after losing contact with the two jets, a court-martial in Scotland was told Tuesday.
Flight Lt. Malcolm Williams, 47, is accused of telling the jets from the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, England, to descend to 4,000 feet. The safe minimum altitude was 6,500, the court has been told. The two F-15C jets crashed into Scottish mountains on March 26, 2001, killing Lt. Col. Kenneth Hyvonen, 40, and Capt. Kirk Jones, 27.
According to a report in The Scotsman daily newspaper, Flying Officer Sophie Green — who was working with Williams in the control room at RAF Leuchars in Scotland — testified, “He was very worried and told me he thought two aircraft may have crashed. He was worried that two contacts with the aircraft had been quite strong and they disappeared. He was very upset.”
She said he then changed the conversation to the recent death of his father. Williams had just returned to work on the day of the crash after taking bereavement leave.
In other testimony, another colleague, Flight Lt. Stewart Grady, said, “We had a conversation in which [Williams] said that in all the times he had been controlling aircraft, this was the first time that he had a bad feeling about the aircraft he had been controlling.”
The court-martial at a Royal Navy base near Glasgow is expected to last into next week.