‘The single service chiefs of staff must retain responsibility for determining that our aircraft can be safely released into service. The MAA will provide full assurance, but it will not carry out this release-to-service role directly. For operational emergency clearances, I have decided to opt for a tighter regime than Mr Haddon-Cave proposed, under which the assistant chiefs – not those who fly the aircraft at the front line – will be responsible for any clearances.’
The MoD is an intelligent customer: it pays to be advised by private firms about air maintenance. As such the MAA is welcome: it will ensure that the quality of technical advice, upon which service chiefs can advise ministers, is improved. But the decision not to remove Nimrod from service rested ultimately with ministers; that should be recognised in reforms. Blame should not be apportioned on ministers for past failures, but not to do so in the future is perverse.