Frank Taylor

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Person.png A. Frank Taylor LinkedInRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(air accident investigator)
Frank Taylor.jpg
Alma materUniversity of Reading

A. Frank Taylor is the former Director of the Cranfield Aviation Safety Centre having spent 44 years as a consultant on aviation safety issues and as an expert witness in aircraft accident investigations, spanning four decades.[1]

Itavia Flight 870

On 27 June 1980, Itavia Flight 870, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 passenger jet en route from Bologna to Palermo, Italy, crashed into the Tyrrhenian Sea between the islands of Ponza and Ustica, killing all 81 people on board.


Fourteen years after the crash, a 1994 joint investigation was carried out by the British Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) and Italian investigators, which included veteran British air accident investigator A. Frank Taylor and Engineer Goran Lilja of Sweden. The investigation found conclusive physical evidence (as per the wreckage recovered) that a bomb had exploded mid-flight in the rear lavatory, and reported as follows:

4.1 It was concluded that the accident was brought about by in-flight break-up resulting from extensive structural damage caused by the detonation of an explosive charge in the rear (starboard) toilet.

4.2 The charge was probably located in the outer wall of the toilet although other nearby positions cannot be ruled out.

4.3 For the preferred position the charge would most probably have been inserted via the tissue holder just forward of station 801 and pushed rearwards to lie to the rear of the frame at station 801 and at a height at or just above the lower skin of the adjacent engine pylon.

4.4 Other less likely but possible and accessible positions include either inside the toilet waste tank, via the waste hole, or on top of it, via the cupboard under the wash basin.[2]

However, the Italian courts dismissed this joint report as insignificant to their own investigation, and the report was never considered.


28 years after the crash, Rome prosecutors reopened the investigation into Itavia Flight 870, after former Italian President Francesco Cossiga said the plane was hit by a French missile. Earlier in 2008 Cossiga told Italian television that he and former cabinet undersecretary Giuliano Amato were told by Italian secret service agents that a French aircraft had launched the missile in an apparent attempt to hit a nearby plane believed to be carrying Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Media reports based on radar monitoring data said fighter jets from several NATO nations were in the area at the time of the crash, possibly following a Libyan MiG that was trying to evade radar control by flying close to the civilian plane.[3]

On 23 January 2013, Italy’s top criminal court ruled out the bomb theory and concluded that: “There is abundantly clear evidence that the flight was brought down by a missile.”[4]


Interviewed in the Canadian documentary series Mayday in an episode entitled "Massacre over the Mediterranean", Frank Taylor said in 2014:

"We discovered quite clearly that somebody had planted a bomb there, but nobody on the legal side, it would appear, believed us and therefore, so far as we are aware, there has been no proper search for who did it, why they did it, or anything else. As an engineer and an investigator I cannot see why anybody would want to consider anything other than the truth."

Air India Flight 182

Air India Flight 182 was an Air India flight operating on the MontrealLondonDelhi route. On 23 June 1985 it was operated using Boeing 747-237B registered VT-EFO. It disintegrated in midair en route from Montreal to London, at an altitude of 31,000 feet (9,400 m) over the Atlantic Ocean, reportedly as a result of the explosion from a bomb planted by Canadian Sikhs. The remnants of the airliner fell into the ocean approximately 120 miles (190 km) west-southwest of the southwest tip of Ireland, killing all aboard: 329 people, including 268 Canadian citizens, 27 British citizens and 24 Indian citizens. The bombing of Air India Flight 182 is the largest mass murder in Canadian history, the deadliest aviation accident in the history of Air India.[5]

At the trial, during the fourth day of the prosecution's final submission, Robert Wright urged the Air-India trial judge to accept the evidence of Christopher Peel, a highly respected physical metallurgist who was involved in the Lockerbie bombing investigation. Peel identified the location of the bomb on the Air-India flight based largely on bulges, structural damage and the apparent direction of cracks in parts of the fuselage pulled from the ocean. He also testified on the significance of the size of the large blast hole in the fuselage, where no parts of the aircraft's luggage bin have been found.

Wright attacked the testimony of internationally recognised experts Frank Taylor, who analysed the trail of wreckage in the water in order to identify the sequence of the aircraft breaking up, and Edward Trimble, who has investigated 75 aircraft accidents. Wright said he was not critical of the qualifications of defence witnesses Taylor and Trimble. However, they are experts in analysis of aviation accidents, not of structural damage caused by bomb explosions

"In the simplest terms, this is no accident," Robert Wright said. Assessing structural damage caused by a bomb is a highly specialised field, Wright said: "The good news for society is that a bomb does not go off very often. The bad news is that the infrequency of bombings means it's hard to have experts speak knowledgeably."[6]

Pan Am Flight 103

Full article: Pan Am Flight 103

On 23 December 1988, the Los Angeles Times reported that Frank Taylor, a former investigator for the US National Transportation Safety Board, said a cockpit recording that appears normal until the end could indicate that an explosion knocked out communications, electricity and perhaps even severed the cockpit from the aircraft. Taylor made his comments in Washington before cockpit data from the Pan Am Flight 103 was released.[7]

While investigating the 21 December 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, A. Frank Taylor helped create a software program that could locate widely scattered debris:

  • 1) how far a piece will travel in the direction that the aircraft was originally travelling; and,
  • 2) how far the piece will be blown downwind.[8]

Germanwings Flight 9525

Germanwings Flight 9525 was a scheduled international passenger flight from Barcelona–El Prat Airport in Spain to Düsseldorf Airport in Germany. The flight was operated by Germanwings, a low-cost carrier owned by the German airline Lufthansa. On 24 March 2015, the aircraft, an Airbus A320-211, crashed 100 km (62 mi; 54 nmi) north-west of Nice in the French Alps. All 144 passengers and six crew members were killed. It was Germanwings' first fatal crash in the 18-year history of the company.

On 26 March 2015, the BBC reported:

One of the two pilots of the Germanwings plane that crashed in the French Alps was locked out of the cockpit, according to reports.

Early findings from the cockpit voice recorder suggest the pilot made desperate efforts to get back in, sources close to the investigation say.

French officials have said it is too early to draw any conclusions. However, the New York Times quoted an unnamed investigator as saying that one of the pilots - it is not clear if it is the captain or the first officer - left the cockpit and had been unable to get back in.

Frank Taylor, former Director of the Cranfield Aviation Safety Centre, says the leaked reports put pressure on investigators to release information early.[9]

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