Glasgow Clutha Helicopter Crash Report Published By AAIB

Expert Reaction From Specialist Aviation Lawyers At Irwin Mitchell


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Specialist aviation lawyers acting for victims of the Clutha helicopter tragedy in Glasgow have repeated their calls for black box flight data recorders to be fitted to all commercial passenger helicopters following publication of an accident report by the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB).

Irwin Mitchell Scotland represents 17 people including the families of those killed and victims who suffered injuries when the Airbus police helicopter operated by Bond crashed into the Clutha Vaults pub on November 2013.

As part of their work on behalf of the victims of the crash, Irwin Mitchell’s lawyers have already been campaigning on how the lack of black box recording equipment on smaller helicopter’s, including this one, has hampered investigations. 

Lawyers wrote to both the British and Scottish governments urging them to make it a legal requirement for the equipment to be fitted on all commercial passenger-carrying helicopters flying in UK airspace.  

Now the AAIB has released its accident report containing safety recommendations relating to the installation of flight data recorders.

Jim Morris, a former RAF pilot and specialist aviation lawyer at Irwin Mitchell which represents 17 people affected by the crash, said: 

Expert Opinion
“The lack of a flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder (black box) has had a significant impact on the AAIB’s efforts to investigate the Clutha tragedy. This sadly leaves the victims angry and frustrated that there are still so many questions which may never be answered. We will now be continuing with our campaign to get black box data recorders fitted to all commercial passenger helicopters and feel that this report and its recommendations send out a clear message that now is the time for action.

There are several safety recommendations in the report including the fitting of FDRs to more helicopters and it is vital that these are taken seriously if flight safety is to be improved.

“There are effectively two fuel pumps to transfer fuel from the main tank to the engines supply tanks. One of these should be on at all times but at the time of the crash both were switched off, meaning the supply tanks fuel became exhausted and caused the double flame out, despite there being 76kg of fuel in the main tank. We may never know why both pump switches were off because of a lack of flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.

This was a highly qualified and experienced former RAF helicopter pilot who was assessed as ‘above average’. He should have been able to competently deal with fuel management, low fuel and emergency procedures. The report suggests that he had acknowledged low fuel warnings, but the AAIB could not establish why he did not complete the low fuel actions in the pilot's checklist, so something simply doesn’t add up.

The crucial real time evidence from a FDR and CVR would have enabled the investigators to reconstruct in far more detail what the pilot and helicopter were actually experiencing and the sequence/ timing/reasons for the events that occurred.

“Our focus is on ensuring those who lost loved ones in the crash and those who suffered injuries get the help and support they still need at this most difficult time. It has been a tough week for the Clutha crash victims and those we have spoken to generally feel incredibly disappointed that they may never know exactly what went wrong.”
Jim Morris, Partner

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