You may have noticed in what passes for “news” the announcement that the Canadian Forces has completed its inquiry into the crash of a Griffon helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2009, in which three soldiers died. The crash occurred when a helicopter was taking off from an American forward operating base, the overweight and overheating helicopter’s pilots lost their bearings in the dust their craft kicked up, and drifted into the base’s security wall.
The government’s own news release says only that the Board of Inquiry found that pilot error and poor conditions in the landing zone, which is true but only half the truth. The report also mentions some other important factors, like the fact that key guidelines for pilots were amended to exaggerate the capabilities of their aircraft. It concludes that the aircraft got into trouble as it left the poor-quality American landing zone, and then did not react properly to the problem, causing the crash.
But here are some interesting things that I noticed, which the media hasn’t bothered to. All of them are examples of the growing and inexplicable paranoia in the upper echelons of the government:
- The members of the board of inquiry are classified. This makes it a little harder to take it seriously, since they could literally be anybody. Other BOIs on the website don’t have this sort of secrecy. Given that it involves operational units in Afghanistan, there is a negligibly plausible rationale here, except that…
- The soldiers killed in the crash are classified. This one is truly bizarre. And also pointless, since the names of those who died are already a matter of public record: Pat Audet, Martin Joannette, and Ben Babington-Browne.
- This report was completed on August 10, 2010. Why is it being released now? Exactly what needed to be done before the public could be told what happened?
- The military says 12 of 18 recommendations are “already” implemented. This, presumably, is why the government suppressed the report for a year. But I think if there’s any point holding it back for that reason, we at least deserve to know which ones are going to be ignored. Increased flight training? Improvements to the landing zones? Corrections to the doctored flight guidance? Did they only pick the “easy” recommendations, like a reminder to helicopter crew to wear their seat belts?