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Eurocopter issues EC135 safety notice

Eurocopter has issued a Safety Information Notice to EC135 operators after being informed of a fuel indication issue on board the helicopter that crashed into a Glasgow pub last month, killing 10 people.

Subsequent fuel system functionality tests performed by the aircraft operator, Bond Air Services, and two other EC135 operators in Europe “have revealed possible similar supply-tank fuel gauging errors on some aircraft”, Eurocopter says in the notice, adding that it is currently undertaking its own in-depth investigation.

“The first analysis shows that the indication of the fuel quantity in the supply tanks could be overestimated,” Eurocopter says. “All crews should be aware that in the worst case a red warning ‘Low Fuel’ could appear without any amber FUEL Caution before.

“The red LOW FUEL 1/2 warnings are generated by an independent switching logic with separate sensors in each supply tank. The red LOW FUEL 1/2 warning lights continue to operate correctly even if the fuel gauging is inaccurate.

“Therefore, after illumination of LOW FUEL warnings the procedure iaw. the Flight Manual must be strictly complied with, notwithstanding of the fuel quantity indication.”

After an initial investigation into the Glasgow crash, the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said the Police Scotland helicopter showed “no evidence of major mechanical disruption of either engine” and still had 95 litres of the 400kg of fuel with which it had taken off.

In a statement released yesterday, Bond Air Services said it had temporarily suspended service operations while it conducted checks on its fleet of EC135s.

“The results of these tests were subsequently validated by Eurocopter, and appropriate repairs made before returning the aircraft to service. We also took the decision to increase safety barriers by mandating that all our EC135s should maintain a minimum of 90kg of fuel onboard at all times.

“All our EC135 aircraft are now fully operational and are available for missions with our air ambulance and police customers,” it concluded.

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