13 November 2003 Edition
Pumas unsafe in Irish skies
The Celtic League has this week highlighted another incident involving an RAF Puma helicopter, when a machine flying between Britain and Ireland was forced to make an emergency landing on the Isle of Man early on Tuesday morning.
Initial reports said that there was a small on board fire but later the Ministry of Defence asserted it was simply a case of 'minor unserviceability'.
The Celtic League has repeatedly raised concerns about the helicopter, which it says is past its sell by date. The machine has been involved in a number of serious incidents including one in March 2002 in South Armagh when a number of troops on board were injured. Safety statistics studied by the League on the aircraft also show a deteriorating safety record in recent years.
The Celtic League has supported calls by groups such as the South Armagh Farmers & Residents Committee for the machine's operations over villages and farmsteads in border areas to be cut back.
The MoD have refused to comment about the operation the machine involved in the latest mechanical failure was involved in or how many personnel were on board.
The Puma and its smaller contemporary the Lynx have been in service for 30 years.
In February 2000, the Celtic League called for the Lynx to be grounded because of its repeated failings. The MoD rejected the calls, however, just six weeks later, they were forced to ground the whole fleet for an upgrade following a further mechanical failure.