Airport at risk of being blown-up

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A HUGE explosion could have been caused at Robin Hood Airport after border agency officials opened crates packed with ammunition - despite being warned not to by a pilot.

The UK Border Agency has been criticised following the incident which saw a plane loaded with anti-tank shells inspected at Finningley.

Ten people were present, and other aircraft were nearby, when UKBA staff examined the plane’s cargo, even though the pilot had warned officials the crates were filled with explosives and should not be checked.

The plane was taken to a separate part of the site for checking because of the hazardous cargo.

Despite the warning, crates were opened and explosive devices partially removed, exposing live rounds.

The HSE found that UKBA had failed to carry out a suitable risk-assessment to enable them to complete the checks safely.

There was a significant risk ammunition could detonate if it was dropped, which could have detonated the whole cargo. As a result, people and aircraft were put at risk.

Paul Darling of UKBA attended a Crown Censure meeting and accepted the findings, acknowledging health and safety failings.

UKBA cannot face prosecution from HSE in the same way as non-Government bodies. Instead Crown Censures are agreed procedures applicable to Crown employers in lieu of criminal proceedings.

David Snowball, who chaired the meeting, said: “Our investigation into the details of the cargo verification by UKBA staff at Robin Hood Airport found failings by the Agency were serious enough to warrant this course of action.

“The evidence brought to light would be sufficient to provide a realistic prospect of conviction of UKBA in civilian courts. This Crown Censure is the maximum enforcement action that HSE can take and should serve to illustrate how seriously we take the failings identified.”

The incident took place in November 2009.