Aviation Lawyers Say Lack of Public Inquiry Is Missed Opportunity To Improve Helicopter Safety

Government’s Decision to Reject The Transport Select Committee’s Recommendation To Hold Public Inquiry is ‘Very Disappointing’


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Specialist aviation lawyers representing injured victims and the families of those killed in helicopter crashes in the UK and abroad say they are disappointed with the Government’s decision not to hold a public inquiry into safety issues and say it is a ‘missed opportunity to achieve a comprehensive and transparent review that could help restore confidence in the safety of helicopter operations’.

The Transport Select Committee has today (27 October 2014) published the responses of the Government, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the oil and gas industry to its report published in July examining offshore helicopter safety.

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

However the Government has today rejected calls for any Public Inquiry saying the CAA and the industry should be given time to implement the recommendations from the CAA’s Offshore Review – a decision which expert lawyers at Irwin Mitchell believe is a missed opportunity.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist aviation law team represents 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.

Jim Morris, a former RAF pilot and Partner in Irwin Mitchell’s Aviation Law team, said:

Expert Opinion
We are very disappointed with the Government’s response to the report and its decision not to hold a public inquiry, contrary to the recommendation of the Transport Select Committee.

“Since 2009 there have been more than 25 helicopter accidents/ incidents in UK airspace, and 14 of these accidents resulted in over 50 deaths. Given that the helicopter accident trend has also involved onshore accidents, such as the crashes in Glasgow and London, and the fact that the helicopter in the Glasgow crash was not required to have black box equipment fitted, in January 2014 we wrote to the English and Scottish Governments calling for a public inquiry and a change in the aviation regulations, to ensure that black-box recording equipment is fitted to all commercial passenger carrying helicopters operating in the UK airspace.

“When we heard of the Transport Select Committee’s subsequent backing for a full inquiry into offshore helicopter safety, we hoped that the government would follow its recommendation and, in light of the spate of onshore accidents and the concerns surrounding the black-box regulations, that it would broaden the scope of the inquiry.

“It is very frustrating that the Government has missed the opportunity to hold a transparent and comprehensive review of helicopter operations, the industry, the regulations and the regulators. Such an inquiry could have resulted in crucial safety recommendations to help reverse the trend in helicopter accidents, which would help re-build public confidence in UK commercial helicopter operations, both on and offshore.”
Jim Morris, Partner

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