Eurocopter EC135 in Glasgow Pub Crash Was Grounded Last Year

Concerns over rotor hub cracks prompted move.

Police EC135

Police EC135

** Eurocopter EC135, similar to the one involved
in the crash. **

The operator of the police helicopter that crashed through the roof of a Glasgow pub last Friday grounded its entire fleet of Eurocopter EC135s for a time last year amid serious concerns about rotor hub shaft cracks, according to public records.

Accident investigators in the U.K. haven't indicated that the grounding played a role in the crash, which claimed the lives of nine people and injured dozens inside the packed pub, but say the issue nonetheless will be one area they and Eurocopter technical personnel will consider as the search for clues into what went wrong continues.

In May 2012 the European safety agency issued an emergency airworthiness directive after a crack was discovered on the lower flange of a main rotor hub shaft of a Eurocopter EC135. Further inspections identified an additional three affected helicopters, leading EASA in October that year to mandate pre-flight visual inspections of the affected area.

According to minutes of a Scottish Ambulance Service board meeting published in the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper, Bond Air Services, the company that operated the EC135 on behalf of the Scottish Police, replaced a rotor hub shaft after discovering a crack in one of its helicopters in April 2012. The operator inspected the rest of its fleet and found no further cracks, but moved to ground its fleet temporarily after Eurocopter informed Bond that cracks had been found in other EC135s.

Bond returned its helicopters to service shortly afterward, but noted that it remained “concerned that Eurocopter has still to identify the root cause of the defect.” The operator has since adopted a regimen of frequent rotor hub inspections.

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