Friday, November 28, 2014

Clutha helicopter crash report hit by delay: Eurocopter EC 135 T2+, G-SPAO

The final investigation report into the Clutha helicopter crash a year ago today will not be ­published until mid-2015.

A draft version will take several weeks to complete, the UK Department for Transport’s air accident investigation branch (AAIB) said yesterday. It will then be sent to “interested parties”, such as relatives of those who died and the helicopter firms involved, early next year.

Ten people were killed when a Police Scotland helicopter crashed on to the Clutha bar in Glasgow city center on Friday, 29 November, 2013.

The AAIB issued its last interim report into the crash in February, when it revealed the helicopter’s two engines had failed after being starved of fuel, despite 76kg of fuel remaining in its main tank.

The AAIB said the two fuel supply tanks linking the main tank to the engines were almost empty, but it found no problems with the connecting pipes.

It said yesterday the investigation had been protracted because the Eurocopter EC135 T2+ aircraft was not required to have flight data or cockpit voice recorders. It said: “As a result, significant work was required to extract and analyze the contents of non-volatile mem­ory from microchipped equipment known to record data.

“This, together with further examination of the aircraft and subsequent tests, has now been completed, to the extent that the investigation team may reach its conclusions.”

The AAIB said it had been working with the helicopter manufacturer, engine manufacturer, the European Aviation Safety Agency, the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority and the helicopter operator, along with other specialists, “to establish the causes and contributory ­factors that led to the accident”

Its February report said the investigation would “seek to determine why a situation arose that led to both the helicopter’s engines flaming out when 76kg of fuel remained in the fuel tank group”.

Pilot David Traill and his passengers, police officers Kirsty Nelis and Tony Collins, lost their lives. Those killed in the pub were John McGarrigle, Mark O’Prey, Gary Arthur, Colin Gibson, Robert Jenkins and Samuel McGhee. Some 32 people were taken initially to hospitals across the city. Joe Cusker was pulled from the wreckage alive but later died in hospital.

Law firm Irwin Mitchell, which represents relatives of those who died, called for the final report to be published sooner, and repeated its demand for an urgent review of helicopters below a certain weight being exempt from carrying “black box” equipment.

Elaine Russell, a partner in the firm, said: “We cannot overstate how important it is for the AAIB to get this publication out as soon as possible so that our clients can understand what led to the incident, as well as what should be done to ensure that no-one else faces the terrible ordeals they have endured.

“The middle of 2015 is simply too long to wait for the answers that are needed.”

Jim Morris, a partner in the firm’s aviation law team, said: “Current regulations on the fitting black box equipment exempt helicopters weighing less than 3,175kg from having to carry it, which, as this tragedy and the latest AAIB update demonstrates, can make the job for the accident investigators much more challenging and cause significant delays in finding out the cause of accidents.

“This in turn leads to delays in providing answers to the loved ones of those affected, as well as affecting whether lessons can be learned and measures implemented to improve flight safety.

“One year on, and all of our clients remain frustrated and desperate for answers regarding how this terrible tragedy ­happened.”

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