Belfast Telegraph

PSNI helicopter still in service despite grounding of fleet

BY CHRIS KILPATRICK

The PSNI has been urged to ground one of its helicopters if technical faults are found in any of the same models suspended from service across the UK.

Police yesterday said they had no plans to withdraw from service their EC 135, the same aircraft involved in the Clutha bar tragedy in Glasgow in which 10 people were killed.

The PSNI copter remains in operation despite 22 of the same model operating as air ambulances in the UK being grounded.

Operator Bond Air Services said it grounded its fleet of EC 135 helicopters as a precaution while the fault, discovered on an air ambulance in the north west of England on Wednesday, is examined.

Jonathan Craig, a DUP MLA and member of the Policing Board, said he had sought assurances on the safety of the helicopter from Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris. "We need to know is this a technical issue with the aircraft or an issue with the maintaining of the aircraft?" he said.

"That is being reviewed by the PSNI at the moment. If it's a technical issue with the aircraft it should be grounded immediately."

The PSNI's EC 135 is one of the body's three helicopters.

Eurocopter, the manufacturer of the grounded aircraft, said the decision taken by Bond did not apply to the rest of the fleet.

The Police Scotland helicopter that crashed into the roof of the Clutha bar on November 29 was a Bond-operated Eurocopter EC135 Type 2 aircraft.

A Eurocopter spokesman said: "Eurocopter was informed by Bond that they decided to temporarily suspend flights with their EC 135 fleet yesterday late evening. Based on an observation made on an aircraft engaged in medical services, the decision was taken for precautionary reasons."

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority said: "It is voluntary action by the operator. There is no official regulatory grounding of the type so they are still free to fly if operators wish to."

STORY SO FAR

One of those seriously injured in the Glasgow helicopter crash yesterday died, bringing the death toll to 10. Joe Cusker (59), of Cambuslang, South Lanarkshire, died in Glasgow Royal Infirmary. He had been in the Clutha bar when the helicopter crashed into it.

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