‘Faulty’ sensors on Clutha helicopter not replaced

From left, top row, David Traill; PC Kirsty Nelis; PC Tony Collins; Gary Arthur; Samuel McGhee (Bottom: left to right) Colin Gibson; Robert Jenkins; Mark O'Prey; John McGarrigle; and Joe Cusker . The 10 were killed in the Clutha tragedy
From left, top row, David Traill; PC Kirsty Nelis; PC Tony Collins; Gary Arthur; Samuel McGhee (Bottom: left to right) Colin Gibson; Robert Jenkins; Mark O'Prey; John McGarrigle; and Joe Cusker . The 10 were killed in the Clutha tragedy
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A pilot flagged up problems with fuel indication readings in the doomed Clutha helicopter just two months before the fatal crash, but the “faulty” components were never replaced, a court has heard.

Craig Trott, a Police Scotland helicopter pilot, highlighted a discrepancy which meant displays on the G-SPAO Eurocopter aircraft showed over readings and under readings of up to 15 kilograms of fuel.

Mr Trott pointed out the issue to James Remfry, head of maintenance at Bond Air Services - the operators of the twin engine helicopter - who in turn advised him there would be a plan devised to “replace the existing faulty component.”

However, a Fatal Accident Inquiry into the crash, which killed ten people when the aircraft crashed into Glasgow’s Clutha Bar on 29 November 2013, heard that there was no record of the fuel sensors having been replaced.

Mr Trott emailed Mr Remfry about the misreadings on 30 September that year, shortly after the two men had spoken about the issue.

He wrote: “It has been noticed that, following refuel to 400kg (310kg in the main tank) that after a period of a couple of hours the main tank contents seem to be reducing.”

Around two hours after refuelling, he explained, the total had fallen to 295kg, but after the helicopter took off and transitioned to forwards flight, the main tank contents rose to 320kg.

His email, marked as ‘high importance’, went on: “I understand that you will be calibrating and sending two new fuel probes up to Glasgow to exchange with two of those in the aircraft.”

Mr Trott also advised that would “temporarily add” 30kg of fuel to his minimum indications while waiting for two new fuel sensors to be fitted.

The following day, Mr Remfry, who at the time was employed as a base maintenance co-ordinator, thanked Mr Trott for his email and replied: “As discussed I have taken this issue up with Martin Forster, avionics manager, who has hastened an existing demand for 2 of the later fuel sensors.

“He is confident that we should receive these at Staverton within the week and will then put a plan together to replace the existing faulty component.”

The inquiry was shown technical log sector records for the G-SPAO aircraft which showed there was no record of the sensors having been fixed or replaced.

Mr Remfry said he “would expect the work to be carried out,” and that he could only surmise the sensors were sent and stored in standby at the Glasgow heliport.

He said he did not think it was necessary to register the issue as a “deferred defect” at the time, describing it as a “discrepancy” as opposed to a “hard fault.”

The 58-year-old added that Mr Trott was “not as comfortable as he could be” about the issues with the fuel readings.

Earlier, Mr Remfry told the court there were reliability issues with “a number of components” on the company’s aircraft in the year of the crash.

The inquiry before Sheriff Principal Craig Turnbull, which is being held at a temporary court at Glasgow’s Hampden Park, continues.

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