Aircraft Type and Background
RAF Panavia Tornado F3 [FR] / ZE982
With its first flights taking place in the mid 1970's and following acceptance by the RAF in 1980, the Tornado continued in production until 1998. The manufacturing consortium consisted of BAE Systems, EADS, and Alenia. The Tornado was fitted with two RB199 turbofans, and is equipped with AMRAAM, Sky Flash, AIM-9 Sidewinder, or similar armaments. It carries a crew of two: The pilot in the front seat and the weapons systems officer in the rear seat.
The Tornado F3 variant featured here was developed from the original Tornado GR1 attack aircraft. Normally, the aircraft would be armed with short and medium range air-to-air missiles. Among many other advanced features, the aircraft is equipped with BAE Systems Foxhunter radar, providing search capability over an extended range.
The RAF Tornado F3's are due for retirement in 2011.
BELOW: This photo, taken at Goose Bay, shows early RAF Tornado GR1A's (reconnaissance versions) from which the Tornado F3 was developed later. Some of the missiles carried by this aircraft can be seen clearly.
For further examples, see Panavia Tornado at Wikimedia Commons
Aircraft Accident Details
Together with another Tornado F3 from 43 (Fighter) Squadron1 RAF Leuchars, the aircraft were on a training mission which took them over the hills of Argyll in Scotland. This is a commonly used training area and familiar to experienced RAF crews.
During a pass through or just above Glen Kinglas near Cairndow and the Rest and Be Thankful, one of the fighters was thought by witnesses to be flying too low for the surrounding terrain (i.e., below the usual low-flying level). Shortly afterward the Tornado crashed into this hillside just above Glen Kinglas.
Search and rescue helicopters from HMS Gannet (Prestwick) and from RAF Lossiemouth were scrambled. Civilian emergency services, including the Scottish Fire Service Major Incident Unit (MIU) at Clydebank also attended the scene. The RAF Mountain Rescue Teams (MRTs) in attendance were led by Sgt Tim Sugars. One Team was from RAF Leuchars and the other from RAF Kinloss.
Wreckage, fuel, and hazardous materials were scattered over a wide area of the hillside making the recovery operation more difficult.
Just over six months later, in 2010, the Report into the incident said that the aircraft ran out of [manoeuvring] space during a turn, while engaged on a low-level flight. With insufficient space to complete the turn, the aircraft crashed into the north slope of Glen Kinglas, not far from the Rest and be Thankful. The second Tornado witnessed the accident, and—after making an immediate recovery—returned to its base at RAF Leuchars. The Official Inquiry reported the incident as 'a controlled flight into terrain', but did not apportion blame. (See Panel on right for links to MOD Service Inquiry Report.)
This is the fifth Tornado aircraft to have crashed in Scotland, either inland or in the sea. Other accidents occurred in the North Sea (near St Andrews), at RAF Leuchars (forced landing), at Dunbar near Torness, and at Glen Ogle.
1 No. 43 (Fighter) Squadron RAF was disbanded in July 2009, in line with plans scheduled some time previously.
Aircraft Crew Casualties
Tragically, both the pilot and the weapons systems officer died in this accident. These were:
Flt Lt Thomson came from the Glasgow area, while Flt Lt Morton was from Fife. Both men were attached to 43 (Fighter) Squadron RAF Leuchars.
Crash Site Photos
At the moment, there are no crash site photos of this aircraft. However, photos of the accident site and / or of memorials to the crew members would be very much appreciated.
Crash Date / Site
Accident Date: 2 Jul 2009
Glen Kinglas (170m)
(Above Butter Bridge and below pass of Rest and Be Thankful)
Region: Argyll and Bute (Argyll)
Nearest towns or villages:
Nearest large town:
OS Grid Ref. N/A
GPS Refs: N/A
Present Condition: Most wreckage has been destroyed or recovered. Some smaller remains may still be found onsite, but scattered over a wide area
Registration or Serial: ZE982
Operator: RAF (43 Squadron / disbanded July 2009)
Operating Station: RAF Leuchars
Station Location: Leuchars, St. Andrews, Fife (Between St. Andrews and Dundee).
Current Station Status:
RAF operations will cease in 2013. The station will then be taken over by the army.
Current Station Name (Until Closure): RAF Leuchars
Principal airport data courtesy of John Woodside, A Catalogue of UK Airfields
Accident Specific Links
(The last two links above were kindly provided by Paul Ridgwell)
BBC News report (video)
RAF and Related Links
Hill Walking Links
(Hillwalking and Mountaineering)
Hillwalking (The Scottish Mountaineering Club)
Hillwalking.org.uk (Equipment, etc.)
Mountain Guides (Routes, maps, advice and guidance compiled by Steven Fallon)
OutdoorScotland.co.uk (Directory of Clubs, Associations, and Mountain Rescue Teams)
WalkingScotland (The official Walking site of Scotland's national tourism organisation)
Other Outdoor Activities
Backpacking and Backpackers
Cicerone (Backpacking Guides for Walking in the UK)
Kayaking and Canoeing
Kayak Scotland (Sea Kayaking in Scotland)
Kayaking at Active Scotland (Various venues)
Rock Climbing and Abseiling
Abseiling Scotland (Various venues)
Rock Climbing at Scottish National Outdoor Training Centre (Skills Courses and Qualifications Courses)
Rock Climbing in Scotland (Rock Climbing Areas)
Trekking and Hiking
Gairloch Trekking Centre (Pony Trekking in the Scottish Highlands)
Pony and Quad Treks (North Wales)
Ramblers (Worldwide Holidays)
Emergency Services Link
If you cannot make voice calls, you can now contact the 999 emergency services by SMS text from your mobile phone.
Panavia Tornado F3
Glen Kinglas, Cairndow, Argyll