Aviation Industry ‘Must Follow Clutha Helicopter Manufacturer’s Lead On Black Boxes’

Lawyers Acting For Victims Of Tragedy Welcome Airbus Helicopters’ Safety Announcement


Specialist lawyers representing victims of the Clutha helicopter tragedy in Glasgow have urged the aviation industry as a whole to follow Airbus Helicopters' lead on flight safety, after the operator committed to installing vital black box recording equipment to all of its aircraft.

Irwin Mitchell Scotland is representing 17 people including injured victims and the families of those who died when a Bond-operated police helicopter, manufactured by Airbus Helicopters, crashed into the Clutha pub on 29 November 2013. While updates from the Air Accident Investigation Branch have confirmed both engines appeared to suffer fuel starvation, a full accident report is yet to be released in relation to the tragedy.

Irwin Mitchell Scotland and colleagues in Irwin Mitchell’s Aviation Law team have long-held concerns that the lack of black box recording equipment on the helicopter may have hampered investigations. 

As the current aviation regulations did not require the Clutha helicopter to be fitted with this crucial equipment, since 10 December 2013 the aviation team have repeatedly called for a review of laws and have written to the English and Scottish governments, with the aim of achieving a change in the regulations that will ensure that all commercial passenger-carrying helicopters flying in UK airspace are required to be fitted with such devices.

The decision of the president and chief executive of Airbus Helicopters, Guillaume Faury, to fit all of the company’s helicopters with cockpit voice recording and flight data recording equipment as standard, is a very positive development that should assist future air accident investigations involving Airbus helicopters.

Expert Opinion
Current regulations concerning the fitting of black box recording equipment to helicopters exempt helicopters weighing less than 3,175 kg from having to carry this equipment.

"While Airbus Helicopters’ announcement is very welcome, we hope that a change in regulations can still be brought under serious consideration to ensure that all manufacturers are required to fit this equipment.

"The European Air Safety Agency is currently reviewing its ‘Rule Making Programme’, which is considering the extension of flight recorder carriage requirements to helicopters weighing less than 3,175 kg. It is vital that the UK government works with EASA to ensure that all commercial passenger carrying helicopters are required to be fitted with black box equipment.

"To date the interim accident reports on the Clutha tragedy have not identified why the engines flamed out If such rules had been in place at the time of this crash, it is very likely that there would be more information available , which may have provided prompt answers on the chain of events that lead to both engines being starved of fuel.

"Quickly identifying the causes of air accident is crucial to learning lessons and improving flight safety. It is also crucial to those injured and those bereaved so that they can understand how the tragedy occurred and what needs to be done to prevent a similar accident in the future."
Jim Morris, Partner