08:00 Friday 13 December 2013

Helicopters grounded due to technical issues

Written byROB SMYTH

Air Ambulance called to an incident on Burton Rugby Club where a junior player had received a neck injury. Air Ambulance called to an incident on Burton Rugby Club where a junior player had received a neck injury.

THE air ambulance which covers Burton was grounded over safety fears just weeks after an aircraft of the same make and model crashed into the roof of a Scottish pub, killing 10.

Midlands Air Ambulance, which operates a chopper from Tatenhill Airfield, confirmed that all three of its Eurocopter EC 135 helicopters, used to ferry critically injured people to hospital, were taken out of service after the technical problem was discovered yesterday.

They are the same make and model as the police helicopter that crashed into the Clutha Vaults pub in Glasgow at the end of last month.

Bond Aviation Group, the supplier of EC135 for the Midlands and North West Air Ambulances, said it had found a fault with one of its aircraft in the North West and made the decision to ground all such helicopters.

West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) said the decision was taken by Bond after a warning light came on in an aircraft in another part of the country.

A spokesman said: “Clearly, safety is our number one priority and will be guided by the operator of the aircraft.

“As a service we still have access to two air ambulances, so we had no concerns about patients being put at risk by this situation.

“In addition, the crews that would have been flying responded on land vehicles, as they would if the weather had stopped the helicopters flying.

The Air Ambulance Service offered two of its aircraft, the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance (WNAA) and Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance (DLRAA), to cover.

Both use Augusta Westland 109 helicopters, which are different to the ones used in the Midlands.

A spokesman for WMAS said that, following an inspection by Bond engineers, the Midlands Air Ambulance from Tatenhill was set to resume normal service at some point today.

The spokesman said: “Inspections on the two further Midlands Air Ambulances based at Cosford and Strensham are continuing.”

In May last year, all three Midlands Air Ambulance helicopters were grounded amid concerns about possible cracks in the rotor blades, which could have caused them to crash.

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