* Bond Aviation grounds 38 helicopters after technical
* Incident follows fatal Scottish pub crash that killed 10
* Union calls for public inquiry over helicopter safety
By Belinda Goldsmith
LONDON, Dec 12 British-based air services
company Bond Aviation said on Thursday it had suspended its
global fleet of 38 EC135 helicopters following discovery of a
technical fault in one.
A Bond Aviation EC135 helicopter leased to the police
dropped from the sky onto a pub in Glasgow, Scotland, on Nov.
29, killing three crew and seven others. Britain's Air Accidents
Investigation Branch (AAIB) has so far found no evidence of
engine or gearbox failure in that helicopter.
The suspension took one third of Britain's emergency
ambulance and police helicopters temporarily out of service but
some later in the day were returned to operations.
A company spokeswoman said one of the helicopters made by
the Eurocopter subsidiary of aerospace group EADS had
experienced an "indication defect" on Wednesday but declined to
give more details of the incident.
"We are continuing to investigate that technical fault that
resulted in us temporarily suspending operations," she said.
It is the latest in a spate of helicopter incidents in
Britain and has prompted calls from a transport union for a
In August, four oil rig contractors were killed when a
Super Puma L2 made by Eurocopter crashed into the sea off
Shetland's southern coast, causing a temporary halt on all Puma
flights. An investigation found no technical fault.
The Bond Aviation spokesman said the company was left with
22 EC135 helicopters operating in Britain after the Scotland
crash and these had been suspended as a precautionary measure.
Sixteen more are overseas, in Ireland and Australia.
Eurocopter said in a statement it was aware of a reported
issue with the fuel indication system of the suspended
helicopters but said some of the Bond aircraft were already back
Eurocopter did not recommend any specific action regarding
the EC135 fleet in service around the world, it added.
CALLS FOR SAFETY INQUIRY
Eurocopter stressed it was only Bond Aviation's fleet that
had been suspended from flying, which was standard procedure
after a reported incident. Other EC135s globally were continuing
to operate as normal.
"Eurocopter does not recommend any further action for the
other EC135 aircraft in service around the world," it said in a
Offshore union RMT called for a full public inquiry into
helicopter safety both onshore and offshore, demanding to know
if there was any connection between the three incidents.
"There is now a widespread and deep-seated concern over the
whole issue of helicopter safety," RMT General Secretary Bob
Crow said in a statement.
"All of those workers using the helicopters, whether they be
offshore, police, ambulance, coastguard or any other industry,
have a right to know that their place of work is safe and that
means establishing the full facts as an absolute matter of
Established in 1961, Bond provides search and rescue,
offshore crew-change transport, air ambulance support, police
helicopter support, and specialist services such as offshore
wind farm and lighthouse maintenance, and aerial lifting.
Bond is owned by the UK-based Avincis Group, a privately
owned provider of aerial services for critical operations, which
is currently in exclusive talks with engineering support
services company Babcock International Group which could
result in Babcock taking a stake.
A spokesman for Babcock said on Thursday that the situation
was unchanged and talks were continuing.