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SAFETY ALERT HITS COPTER AMBULANCES; Probe after crack is found in rotor.

Byline: Charlie Gall

URGENT safety checks have been ordered on Scotland's air ambulance fleet after a crack was found in the rotor of one of the helicopters.

The defect, which has led to the inspection of around 1000 helicopters worldwide, could result in a crash if "not detected and corrected".

The problem was found in a Eurocopter EC135 model. The Scottish Ambulance Service use two of the helicopters from their bases in Inverness and Glasgow.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have ordered the choppers to be inspected daily while the fault is being investigated.

Yesterday, the SAS insisted their EC135s choppers, which are operated by Bond Air Services, were safe.

A spokesman said: "The part was replaced immediately and Bond are carrying out detailed daily inspections of the aircraft, in line with the EASA directive."

The defect - a crack on the lower hub-shaft flange of a main rotor hub shaft - was discovered during a routine inspection.

A report said: "This condition, if not detected and corrected, could lead to further crack propagation, possibly resulting in main rotor hub failure and consequent loss of the helicopter.

"The investigation is ongoing and the cause of the crack has not been determined yet."

Bond Air Services said they were working with Eurocopter to identify the cause of the crack and doing all they can to comply with the safety directive.

A spokesman said: "Upon detecting a crack during a scheduled maintenance check on one of our EC135 helicopters, we followed our safety plan and immediately notified Eurocopter and our client, the Scottish Air Ambulance Service.

"A special check of all our EC135s was immediately carried out before their next flight without a further finding.

"We wish to assure users of our aircraft that our fleet of EC135s are inspected in accordance with the latest directives and therefore continue to meet the highest levels of safety."

It is the second time in less than two years that the safety of the EC135 model has been called into question.

In October 2010, air safety chiefs warned that part of the transmission to the main rotor was not up to standard.


URGENT INSPECTIONS The ambulance service's EC135 choppers
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 10, 2012
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