Larbert Clutha helicopter pilot ‘took a chance’ according to a fatal accident inquiry

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The police helicopter pilot at the centre of the 2013 Clutha tragedy “took a chance” low fuel warnings were wrong according to a fatal accident inquiry.

Captain David Traill, originally from Larbert, was said to have ignored the low fuel warnings and his helicopter subsequently crashed into the Glasgow city centre pub on November 29, 2013, resulting in his death and the death of nine others.

In his findings, Sheriff Principal Craig Turnbull said: “The central question for the inquiry is why did that happen? The answer is a simple one. Captain Traill ignored the low fuel warnings he received.

“Had he followed the procedure set down in the pilot’s checklist in respect of the low fuel 1 and / or low fuel 2 warnings, the accident would not have happened. Put another way, Captain Traill took a chance the low fuel warnings he received were erroneous.

“That was a conscious decision on his part. It was a decision that had fatal consequences for ten people.”

He said another factor which could have averted the crash would have been helicopter manufacturer Airbus including a warning in the fuel contents indication system “and associated aural attention-getter which activated where both fuel transfer pumps had been switched off”.

The sheriff principal said the contents of the supply tanks were depleted due to the failure of the pilot “to ensure at least one of the helicopter’s fuel transfer pump switches was set to on”.

However, he said the quantities of fuel displayed on the fuel quantity indication system contradicted the low fuel warnings.

He ended by stating: “The reason the helicopter crashed is not in doubt. Its engines flamed out sequentially, as a result of fuel starvation, due to depletion of the contents of the supply tanks; and the pilot, Captain Traill being unable to successfully perform an autorotation and landing of the helicopter.

“The contents of the supply tanks depleted due to the failure of Captain Traill to ensure that at least one of the fuel transfer pump switches was set to on.”

The FAI followed a report into the crash by the Department for Transport’s air accidents investigation branch.

It was announced in August last year, with the main hearings starting at Hampden in Glasgow in April.

The FAI heard the pilot would have received five low fuel warnings.

Mr Traill (51) died along with Constable Tony Collins (43), Constable Kirsty Nelis (36) aboard the helicopter.

Also killed were seven customers of the Clutha bar beside the Clyde – Gary Arthur (48), Joe Cusker (59), Colin Gibson (33), Robert Jenkins (61), John McGarrigle (58), Samuel McGhee (56) and Mark O’Prey (44).

Sheriff Principal Turnbull praised relatives and friends of those who died, and those who were injured.

He said: “The events of November 29, 2013 changed forever the lives of many people. A number of them were present throughout many days of evidence in this inquiry and the dignity with which they did so is admirable.

“I extend the condolences of the court and of all who work within it to all those affected by this tragedy – to not only the friends and relatives of those who died, but to those who were injured that evening; and to those who must live with the events of it.”