Both engines failed in Clutha crash
The Glasgow pub helicopter tragedy which claimed 10 lives happened after both engines on the aircraft failed, an interim accident report said today.
But the helicopter, which was assisting police operations on the night of November 29 2013, had 76kg (168lb) of fuel in its main fuel tank and there was no evidence of blockages or leakages, said the special bulletin from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).
The report said both engines had "flamed out" before the EC135 helicopter crashed into The Clutha Vaults bar at 10.22pm killing the pilot and two Pcs on board as well seven people in the pub.
Examination of the engines showed "no evidence of foreign object damage or intake or exhaust blockage in either engine".
Also, the report said no faults were found with the transmission or rotor system, there was no evidence of structural failure or in-flight fire and no evidence of damage caused by bird strike or a foreign object hitting the aircraft in flight.
No CCTV recordings had been obtained which captured the end of the flight and the recorded radio transmissions did not contain any reference by the crew to difficulties with the aircraft.
Due to publish a full report at a later date, the AAIB said today its continuing investigation "will seek to determine why a situation arose that led to both the helicopter's engines flaming out when 76kg remained in the fuel tank group".
The AAIB said it also wanted to find out "why no emergency radio transmission was received from the pilot, and why, following the double engine failure, an autorotative descent and flare recovery (a con trolled landing) was not achieved".
The report also revealed that three weeks after the crash, the helicopter's operator Bond Air Services had, on December 20 2013, amended its operations manual about fuel reserves while flying.
The pilot who died was David Traill and his passengers were Pc Kirsty Nelis and Pc Tony Collins.
More than 100 people were in the popular city centre bar, near the River Clyde, at the time of the crash.
Those killed in the pub were John McGarrigle, 57, Mark O'Prey, 44, Gary Arthur, 48, Colin Gibson, 33, Robert Jenkins, 61, and Samuel McGhee, 56.
Customer Joe Cusker, 59, was pulled from the wreckage alive but died in hospital from his injuries almost two weeks later. In total, more than 30 people were taken to hospital after the crash.
There have been calls for a public inquiry into the safety of all commercial flights in the UK in the wake of the incident.
Last month, it emerged that the helicopter operator had begun making interim payments to the victims.
Today's report, the second special bulletin published into the crash, said that the helicopter had 400kg (882lb) of fuel on board - sufficient for about one hour and 35 minutes of flight - when it left Glasgow City Heliport at 8.45pm to support police operations.
At 10.18pm the pilot requested clearance from air traffic control to re-enter the Glasgow control zone to return to the heliport. This was approved and no further radio transmissions were received from the pilot.
The report went on: "Recorded data indicates that, in the latter stages of the flight, the right engine flamed out, and shortly after the left engine flamed out.
"The helicopter descended and stuck the roof of the Clutha Vaults bar at a high rate of descent, in an upright attitude. Evidence indicates that the rotor blades and Fenestron tail rotor were not rotating at the moment of impact. The last recoded radar position for the helicopter was at 10.22pm showing it at an altitude of approximately 400ft (122m) amsl (above mean sea level)."
The helicopter was not required to have, and was not fitted with, flight recorders but the AAIB recovered and analysed some data recorded from installed systems.
This data included warnings triggered during the flight, but not when they occurred. There were intermittent low fuel warnings for the left fuel supply tank, then a permanent low fuel warning for the right tank.
This was followed by a further temporary low fuel warning for the left tank before it became permanent for the rest of the flight.
The report said these warnings are triggered by thermal sensors in the supply tanks and, for this helicopter, they indicated when there was approximately 32kg of fuel remaining in the left supply tank and 28kg in the right one.
On receipt of these warnings, the manufacturer's flight manual for the helicopter instructs the pilot to land within 10 minutes.
The report said measurements taken after the helicopter was taken from the pub showed 0.4kg of fuel in the left supply tank and none in the right tank.
The report said the data had also indicated the engine flame-outs but not the exact time they occurred.
The AAIB also said that the helicopter was at about 1,000ft (305m) amsl as it approached the accident area and its average ground speed was approximately 105 knots (121mph).
The AAIB stressed today that it had not attempted an analysis of the facts in this interim report - known as a special bulletin - which it had published "to provide more factual information and an update on the progress of the investigation".
John Fyall, spokesman for helicopter operator Bond Air Services, said: "This is another step in the AAIB's systematic investigative process. All concerned understand this process will be a long and complex investigation.
"While the investigation continues, we would urge against speculation. We owe it to the memories of those who died, those who were injured, and the families affected by this tragedy to help the investigation team answer as many questions as possible and discover exactly what happened.
"We continue to support the investigations and our thoughts remain with all those who have been touched by this tragedy. We also continue to work with Glasgow City Council and other parties to support bereaved families and the local community."
Airline pilots' group Balpa said: "Today's report is the next step in establishing what happened in Glasgow. Pilots want every flight to be safe through full and proper investigation of incidents and accidents like this one.
"We now know that the engines were not running at the time of the crash and it appears this was to do with the fuel system. However, pilots, like the AAIB, will not be satisfied until this is explored further and the exact reason for that failure is identified. The AAIB have our continued support in their work."