A fatal accident inquiry into the Clutha tragedy could consider if all helicopters should be fitted with black box flight recorders, Holyrood’s Justice Secretary has said.
Michael Matheson told MSPs the FAI into the crash, which resulted in 10 people being killed when a police helicopter fell through the roof of the busy Glasgow bar, would be held “as soon as possible”.
He made the comments after the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) published its final report into the accident last week, with the recommendation that all police helicopters should be equipped with black box flight recording equipment.
Following a fatal air ambulance crash in July 1998, the AAIB recommended the CAA should “encourage the development” of lightweight and low-cost flight recorders, and “consider” whether they should be used in emergency service helicopters.
The report last week also concluded the pilot did not follow emergency procedures after a fuel warning in the cockpit.
Investigators found that two fuel supply switches were off yet the helicopter continued to carry out three surveillance jobs over nearby Lanarkshire rather than land on the night of the crash on November 29 2013.
Today, Mr Matheson said such issues could be considered when the FAI is held, as the AAIB report “raises more questions than answers”.
The Justice Secretary said: “The Crown confirmed last week that as the incident involved death in the course of employment a fatal accident inquiry is mandatory and this will be held as soon as possible.
“This will allow for a wider reflection on some of the other issues which could have impacted on the events that evening.
“What is clear, however, is that without a flight data recorder in the helicopter, something not required by regulation for the size of helicopter, it will be very difficult to fully establish all of the answers.”
Glasgow Kelvin MSP Sandra White said: “There are reports stretching back as far as 10 years which recommend that flight data and recording equipment should be fitted to all aircraft and yet they have never been implemented.”
She also said the manufacturers of the helicopter “have been aware that operators were periodically returning defective EC135 fuel sensors and after the tragic accident have begun a series of modifications to the EC135 fuel system”.
Mr Matheson stated: “Clearly, some of these are issues that can be explored further in a fatal accident inquiry once it has been constituted.
“I have no doubt I would want to ensure that all of these types of issues are given the opportunity to be explored in that particular environment.”