Eurocopter safety concerns ground Scots choppers

No problems for RCIPS

Two air ambulance helicopters in Scotland were grounded this week after safety concerns were raised by their operator.  

The choppers are similar models to the Eurocopter EC-135 T-1 now flown by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service. The 1999-model Eurocopter was purchased from the United Kingdom in 2007 for $1.8 million.  

According to reports in the Scottish media, Bond Air Services took the two choppers out of service as a precautionary measure.  

The EC-135 model has come under some scrutiny since last month when the European Aviation Safety Agency ordered daily safety inspections on those helicopter models.  

A crack found on the main rotor of a Scottish air ambulance had prompted the agency to instruct Eurocopter to explain the fault.  

A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said it had been told on Monday afternoon that Bond Air Services had suspended all EC-135 flights as a precaution. 

A police spokesperson said Tuesday that RCIPS is aware of the issues with the two UK-based EC-135 model aircraft, which the service said were “similar models to the RCIPS police helicopter”.  

“The RCIPS EC-135 has had those inspection requirements completed and there is no evidence of any issue with this helicopter and it remains in full service,” the police service stated.  

Inspection requirements for the remainder of the EC-135 fleet – more than 1,000 aircraft worldwide – were issued last month.  

“The Air Operations Unit commander and pilots review all safety releases with maintenance organisation, and in consultation with Eurocopter, and both they and their engineers are happy that there is no risk at this time to the police helicopter operation. They will continue to monitor the investigation into the cracks closely and take any action required by the manufacturer. 

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands has been “kept informed”, according to police, and agrees with the RCIPS position, according to police.  

“The public should be reassured that the RCIPS place safety at the forefront of all their helicopter operations, and the helicopter is subject to a rigorous ongoing and repetitive inspection programme to ensure that safe operation.” 

According to records obtained under the Freedom of Information Law, the RCIPS spent more than $491,000 on maintaining the police Eurocopter during the 2010/11 budget year, which ended on 30 June, 2011. Maintenance costs for the marine unit fleet were just under $270,000 for the year.  

Figures for the current 2011/12 fiscal year were not available because the budget period doesn’t end until 30 June. 

Fuel costs for the helicopter were just shy of $110,000 in 2010/11, while fuel for the marine unit cost the department about $70,000.  

In addition to the fuel and maintenance costs, the police service listed some $538,000 in “other” costs related to the helicopter. According to police personnel, about 80 per cent of that amount was for depreciation of the 1999 Eurocopter vehicle, which was purchased in 2007 for $1.8 million.  

The remaining “other” costs on the helicopter – totalling about $100,000 – were not explained by police. 

RCIPS helo

The RCIPS helicopter lands at Owen Roberts International Airport in March 2010. – Photo: Brent Fuller

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