THE brother of one of the RAF Odiham pilots blamed for the Mull of Kintyre Chinook crash has spoken about his long-running fight to clear his brother’s name.

Chris Cook, of Pankridge Road, Crondall, was 28 when his older brother, Flight Lieutenant Richard Cook, 30, died in the air tragedy in 1994.

All 29 people on board, including three other personnel based at RAF Odiham, were killed when the Chinook Mark 2 aircraft hit a hill on the Scottish peninsula in thick fog on June 2.

An RAF inquiry found pilots Flt Lts Cook and Jonathan Tapper, who was also 30, guilty of “gross negligence”, sparking a 15-year campaign by relatives fighting to clear the pilots’ names.

But despite evidence about concerns over the aircraft’s safety that has since come to light, the Labour Government has so far refused to give the campaigners what they want – an independent review by a High Court judge.

The campaigners believe mechanical problems could be to blame for the crash, not human error.

Chris, now a 44-year-old commercial pilot, welcomed The Gazette’s decision to press for a public hearing.

He said: “I am delighted. If anybody tells the public about the story and the campaign, then that is all very good.

“It seems to me that the pilots have been proved guilty until we can prove them innocent, which is not really how it’s supposed to work – not in this country.”

Chris said he and his fellow campaigners do not want compensation – they just want to clear the pilots’ names.

He added: “What we want is basically an independent review by a High Court judge with the authority to change the verdict if necessary. I do not think that is too much too ask.”

Flt Lt Cook’s final flight on June 2, 1994 was to take some of the most senior members of Northern Ireland’s intelligence community from Belfast to Fort George near Inverness in Scotland.

On that day, Chris was in his flat in London when he heard the news of his brother’s death from his father, John.

Chris said: “We were all in shock for a while. Rick was like my best friend. We had grown up together and I could not believe he was not going to be around any more.”

He said that in the months before the crash, his brother had voiced concerns over the new Mark 2 Chinook.

Chris added: “I think my brother was really concerned that the way things were going, an accident could happen and he did not want to leave his family unprotected. What he said was that the aircraft were not ready and they were not ready as pilots.”

After the finding of “gross negligence” by the RAF board of inquiry in 1995, John Cook and Flt Lt Tapper’s father Mike Tapper set about trying to clear their sons’ names. When his father died of emphysema in 2005, Chris Cook took up the campaign.

New evidence has since come to light, including a report written by a senior engineering officer at Boscombe Down, nine months before the crash, who claimed a fault with the computer software was “positively dangerous”.

But so far defence ministers have refused to grant the campaigners’ wish for an independent review.

When Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth visited RAF Odiham last week, The Gazette asked him about the possibility of a review.

He said: “We genuinely do not see any reason to reopen this case unless there is something that we were not aware of, or was not available to the board of inquiry at the time.”

Chris, who has named his five-year-old son after his dead brother, said he was not surprised by Mr Ainsworth’s answer.

He added: “This June, it will be 16 years since the crash. The campaign has been going on for a very long time. As far as we are concerned, justice has no expiry date. Until we put this big wrong to right, then the campaign goes on.”