Glasgow Chopper-Crash Probe Finds Rotors Had Stopped Turning

The police helicopter that crashed into a Glasgow pub last month killing nine people had neither its main blades nor tail rotor turning, British air accident investigators said.

At the same time an initial assessment of the wreck of the Eurocopter EC135 provided no evidence of an engine malfunction, the U.K. Air Accidents Investigation Branch said in a bulletin today, adding that the chopper had about 95 liters of fuel left.

An eye witness said that before the helicopter hit the Clutha Vaults pub by the River Clyde close to the center of Scotland’s biggest city he heard a noise “like a loud misfiring car, followed by silence,” according to the AAIB.

The crash at 10:22 p.m. on Nov. 29 killed the three people on board and six on the ground, injuring 32, 12 seriously. The EC135, whose pilot who had logged 5,592 flying hours, wasn’t equipped with voice or data recorders, leaving investigators relying on other evidence to determine what happened.

“The AAIB investigation will continue to examine all the operational aspects of this accident and conduct a detailed engineering investigation of the helicopter,” the safety authority said in the bulletin.

No Faults

Civilian pilot Dave Traill, 51, had accrued 646 hours on an EC135 in the past three years, the AAIB said, while the helicopter was dispatched from its base at 8:45 p.m. without any reported technical faults.

In initial comments on Dec. 2, the investigator revealed that the helicopter was intact during its near-vertical plunge to the ground, with no evidence of a midair fire or explosion. There was no emergency transmission and nothing became detached.

The twin-engine EC135, which was produced in 2007, impacted the bar at a high rate of descent with low forward speed, the AAIB said today. The wreckage has been moved to its Farnborough site southwest of London for further inspection.

The AAIB, which recovered all significant components needed for the probe, said it would provide further updates as its work progresses.

Eurocopter, the helicopter unit of European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co., is supporting the probe, along with German and French safety agencies. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has also been contacted, the AAIB said.

The helicopter involved was owned and operated by Bond Air Services Ltd.

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