The lack of a flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder has had a significant impact on the Air Accident Investigation Branch’s efforts to investigate the Clutha tragedy. This sadly leaves the victims angry and frustrated that there are still so many questions which may never be answered.
We will now be continuing with our campaign to get black box data recorders fitted to all commercial passenger helicopters and feel that this report and its recommendations send out a clear message that now is the time for action.
There are several safety recommendations in the report including the fitting of flight data recorders to more helicopters and it is vital that these are taken seriously if flight safety is to be improved.
There are effectively two fuel pumps to transfer fuel from the main tank to the engines supply tanks. One of these should be on at all times but at the time of the crash both were switched off, meaning the supply tanks fuel became exhausted and caused the double flame out, despite there being 76kg of fuel in the main tank. We may never know why both pump switches were off because of a lack of flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.
This was a highly qualified and experienced former RAF helicopter pilot who was assessed as “above average”. He should have been able to competently deal with fuel management, low fuel and emergency procedures. The report suggests that he had acknowledged low fuel warnings, but the AAIB could not establish why he did not complete the low fuel actions in the pilot’s checklist, so something simply doesn’t add up.
The crucial real time evidence from a flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder would have enabled the investigators to reconstruct in far more detail what the pilot and helicopter were actually experiencing and the sequence/ timing/reasons for the events that occurred.
Our focus is on ensuring those who lost loved ones in the crash and those who suffered injuries get the help and support they still need at this most difficult time. It has been a tough week for the Clutha crash victims and those we have spoken to generally feel incredibly disappointed that they may never know exactly what went wrong.
• Jim Morris is a former RAF pilot and specialist aviation lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, which represents 17 people affected by the Clutha tragedy