Aviation Lawyers Call For ‘Decisive Action’ Ahead Of Offshore Helicopter Safety Report Release

Transport Select Committee To Issue New Information On Monday


Specialist aviation lawyers representing injured victims and the families of those killed in helicopter crashes in the UK and abroad have revealed their hopes that a new report into offshore helicopter safety will lead to decisive action to improve standards in the industry.

The Transport Select Committee is due to publish the responses of the Government, the Civil Aviation Authority and the oil and gas industry to its report published in July examining offshore helicopter safety at 11am on October 27th.

The report recommended that a full public inquiry was held to examine the issue and while Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Aviation Law team backed such action, they also urged that the scope of any inquiry should be broadened to consider all commercial passenger-carrying helicopters operating in the UK airspace.

The specialist team represent victims and the families of those affected by a number of helicopter crashes including two off-shore incidents in October 2012 and in August last year, as well as the crash of an Augusta Westland helicopter in Vauxhall, London in January 2013.  The team is also working with colleagues at Irwin Mitchell Scotland on behalf of victims of the police helicopter crash at the Clutha Vaults bar in Glasgow in November 2013.

In light of the series of serious helicopter accidents and the fact that  the helicopter in the Glasgow crash was not required to have black box equipment fitted, the aviation team wrote to MPs calling for an inquiry and a change in law which would ensure that black-box recording equipment is fitted to all commercial passenger carrying helicopters operating in the UK airspace.

Expert Opinion
The Transport Select Committee’s backing earlier this year for a full inquiry into offshore helicopter safety was very welcome, coming as it did after a series of devastating tragedies which affected the industry.

"However, it was disappointing that Transport Minister Stephen Hammond decided to not back a full inquiry into offshore helicopter safety when he suggested that the primary concern for the Government was to ensure that recommendations included in the Civil Aviation Authority’s review of the area be considered before any further action.

"We hope that the publication of these latest responses will lead to firm and decisive action to conduct an inquiry, but as we have called for before, we urge that the scope of the inquiry is broadened to analyse the safety of all commercial passenger-carrying helicopter activity in the UK, so that the questions raised by onshore helicopter incidents, such as the Clutha crash, are also be placed under the microscope.

"There have been a worrying number of helicopter tragedies in the UK in recent years and it is vital that everything possible is done to provide reassurance and, where possible, lead to action on flight safety in general.

"In conjunction with the need for an inquiry, the British and European authorities also need to ensure that the rules are changed to require the fitting of black box equipment. The current rules allow helicopters weighing less than 3,175kg to be exempt from carrying this equipment, meaning that a significant number of commercial helicopters, including the EC135 Eurocopter that crashed in Glasgow, are not fitted with this crucial equipment.

"It is almost one year on from the Glasgow tragedy yet the air accident investigators have not yet confirmed why both engines appeared to have been starved of fuel. Had the helicopter been fitted with the Flight Data and Cockpit Voice recorder equipment, there would have been far more evidence to assist the investigators which may have enabled them to determine the cause(s) by now, which could assist improving flight safety at an earlier stage."
Jim Morris, Partner