Safety alert over Clutha-type helicopters

The wreck of the helicopter that crashed into the Glasgow pub. Picture: Getty
The wreck of the helicopter that crashed into the Glasgow pub. Picture: Getty
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HELICOPTER firm Eurocopter last night issued a safety alert to operators of its EC135 aircraft after others of the same type as the one that crashed into the Clutha pub in Glasgow last month, killing ten people, were found with a fuel gauge defect.

The UK air service company Bond Aviation, which had leased the helicopter involved in the tragedy to the police, grounded the rest of its fleet of 38 EC135s last week after an air ambulance, one of its 22 aircraft leased in the UK, was found to have a fuel indicator problem. Tests found others also had the same fault.

A Eurocopter spokesman said tests by Bond and two other EC135 operators in Europe had found possible similar supply-tank fuel gauging errors that overestimated the fuel on board.

“The first analysis shows that the indication of the fuel quantity in the supply tanks could be overestimated,” the company said. “All crews should be aware that, in the worst case, a red warning ‘Low Fuel’ could appear without any amber ‘Fuel Caution’ before.”

Eurocopter said it was issuing a safety notice to remind all EC135 operators to follow the safety procedures already in place and outlined in the flight manual, regardless of the aircraft’s fuel-quantity indication.

The company said it would “update its safety information notice as needed”, with investigations continuing.

A spokesman stressed there would be no grounding of aircraft.

A preliminary report from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) stated last week that initial checks had found no engine or gearbox problems and that there was fuel on board. Investigations are continuing.

Bond Aviation said the results of the tests on the rest of its helicopters had been validated by Eurocopter, and appropriate repairs made before returning the aircraft to service.

No-one at Bond was immediately available to comment on how many of its aircraft had been found to have the fault. “We also took the decision to increase safety barriers by mandating that all our EC135s should maintain a minimum of 90kg of fuel onboard at all times,” it said.