Grounded ambulance helicopters get all clear

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Air ambulances grounded over safety fears began flights again yesterday.

Flights of 22 Eurocopter EC 135 helicopters, including 16 air ambulances, were suspended as a precaution by operator Bond Air Services following the discovery of a fault in an air ambulance in Scotland last month.

A crack was discovered on the main rotor hub, prompting a safety warning by the European Aviation Safety Agency (Easa). But Bond said flights would resume from early morning yesterday after discussions with manufacturer Eurocopter.

A spokeswoman for Yorkshire Air Ambulance said its aircraft were unaffected as they were “completely different”.

Earlier Bond said Eurocopter had advised pre and post-flight checks after the fault was discovered but that Bond had decided to halt flights as a precaution until further notice on safety grounds. About 1,000 EC 135s are in use around the world, including air ambulance services in England, Scotland and Wales.

In England, the model is in use at Thames Valley and Chiltern; North West; Midlands; Dorset and Somerset; Hampshire and Isle of Wight; and Devon, according to the Association of Air Ambulances.

Bond Air Services said it took the decision to resume flights after receiving “an unequivocal guarantee” from Eurocopter that the EC 135 was safe to fly.

A company spokesman said: “Over the last 34 hours, Bond Air Services has worked intensively with Eurocopter’s programme engineers to determine if the fleet can be flown safely.

“Eurocopter’s team have developed a deeper understanding of the strength and the stress levels present within the rotor hub and have shared the information with UK CAA and EASA. As a result of this intensive engineering analysis, Eurocopter has given an unequivocal guarantee that the EC 135 is safe to fly within normal operational limits following the continuing practice of visual inspections prior to each flight.”