Glasgow & West Scotland

Clutha inquiry: Pilot warned of faulty fuel reading

Clutha crash scene Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ten people died in the crash

Engineers were warned about problem fuel readings on the helicopter which crashed into The Clutha pub two months before the accident.

An inquiry heard how pilot Craig Trott told maintenance crews at Bond Air Services (now Babcock) about problem fuel readings on 30 September, 2013.

This was eight weeks before the crash which killed 10 people.

Jim Remfry, head of maintenance at Babcock, said he "would expect the work to be carried out".

Mr Trott was told two new fuel sensors would be sent to Glasgow to "replace the existing faulty component" but technical logs up to 10 October recorded no changes to the main tank sensors.

Mr Remfry, a maintenance coordinator at the time of the crash, described the fuel readings outlined by Mr Trott as a "discrepancy" and not a "hard fault".

He said he could only surmise the sensors were sent and kept on standby.

Image caption (Top: L to R) David Traill, PC Kirsty Nelis, PC Tony Collins, Gary Arthur, Samuel McGhee (Bottom: L to R) Colin Gibson, Robert Jenkins, Mark O'Prey, John McGarrigle, Joe Cusker

The inquiry, sitting at Hampden Park, was shown the email exchange between Mr Trott and Mr Remfry with the subject 'G-SPAO fuel indications'.

G-SPAO was the registration of the police helicopter that crashed.

Mr Trott said after refuelling to 310kg in the main tank he noted that it reduced to 295kg two hours later, increasing to 320kg after take-off before reducing again "at a normal burn rate" during flight.

In his email he wrote: "I understand that you will be calibrating and sending two new fuel probes up to Glasgow to exchange with two of those in the aircraft."

The pilot said he would continue operating the craft, while adding 30kg to his minimum fuel calculations, and would brief the next day's duty pilot.

Responding to Mr Trott in an email on 1 October, Mr Remfry wrote: "I have taken this issue up with Martin Forster, avionics manager, who has hastened an existing demand for two of the later fuel sensors.

"He is confident that we should receive these at Staverton within the week and will then put a plan together to replace the existing faulty component."

No record of the change

The maintenance manager said he was happy for Mr Trott to continue flying the helicopter while factoring the issue into his flight planning calculations.

No record of the main fuel tank sensors being changed were recorded in technical logs covering the period up to 10 October.

Mr Remfry said he could not remember if they had been changed, saying he assumed the work had been done.

Asked if it would cause him concern if the work was not carried out, he replied: "Yes, I would expect that work to be carried out."

He earlier told the inquiry that Bond had received a number of reports from pilots about discrepancies between the amount of fuel put into an aircraft and the level appearing on the fuel display.

"This was discussed at great length by our management team," he said.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The accident happened on 29 November 2013 - two months after the fuel readings warning were issued by pilot Craig Tott

Pilot David Traill, 51; PC Tony Collins, 43; and PC Kirsty Nelis, 36, lost their lives in the crash along with seven customers who were in the bar on Stockwell Street.

They were Gary Arthur, 48; Joe Cusker, 59; Colin Gibson, 33; Robert Jenkins, 61; John McGarrigle, 58; Samuel McGhee, 56; and Mark O'Prey, 44.

The inquiry, before Sheriff principal Craig Turnbull, continues.

Clutha inquiry: The evidence so far