On 13 March 2014 an AgustaWestland AW139 operated by Haughey Air crashed shortly after take-off from Gillingham Hall at 1920hrs. At the time night had fallen and dense fog had developed. Four people were tragically killed in this accident. Amongst the victims was the highly respected Edward Haughey, Baron Ballyedmond.
On 3 April 2014 the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) published a Special Bulletin to provide details of the initial facts surrounding the accident. It confirmed that the helicopter took off in dense fog at night. The commander briefed that he would climb vertically from hover then set course. The helicopter climbed to a height of 32 feet then started to accelerate forward in the climb. However, at 125 feet above ground the helicopter pitched progressively nose down and started to descend rapidly, striking the ground at a 25 degrees nose down pitch attitude. In the final few seconds of flight, the co-pilot made two verbal prompts regarding pitch attitude to the commander.
The Bulletin states that at the date of the report, the AAIB had not identified any technical malfunction that might account for the accident but that the investigation continues with the aim of identifying any technical matter of relevance, as well as focussing on flight in degraded visual environments.
This tragic accident is one of a chain of serious helicopter accidents in UK airspace since 2009. The aviation team is acting for passengers and families in a number of these accidents, including the Police Eurocopter crash in Glasgow in November 2013, the Super Puma crash near Shetland in August 2013, the Augusta Westland crash in London in January 2013 and the Super Puma North Sea ditching on October 2012.
In light of the serious concerns about this chain of helicopter accidents, the aviation team has called on the Department For Transport to institute a public inquiry in to the safety of helicopter operations in UK airspace and to review the rules exempting helicopters weighing less than 3175kg from being required to carry ‘Black Box’ equipment, so that all commercial passenger carrying helicopters and all police/ambulance helicopters are required to carry this crucial equipment.
If you would like to speak in confidence to an expert regarding this accident, or any other aviation incident you were involved in, please contact a member of the aviation team on 0800 056 4110. The team will be able to advise you on the accident, the relevant law and the parties who may be liable.
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