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Clutha inquiry: Police pilot was ‘safe pair of hands’

Clutha inquiry: Police pilot was 'safe pair of hands'

  • 10 May 2019

Related Topics

  • Clutha helicopter crash inquiry
Clutha crash sceneImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption The accident happened on 29 November 2013

The pilot of the police helicopter which crashed on to the roof of The Clutha has been described as "a safe pair of hands".

Captain David Traill, his two crew and seven customers in the Glasgow city centre pub died in the tragedy on 29 November, 2013.

Police air observer Alistair Rennie told the fatal accident inquiry Mr Traill was a "stickler" for the rules.

The court also heard he was the kind of man who did not cut corners.

The inquiry has previously heard five fuel warnings appeared before the Eurocopter EC135 crashed.

Donald Findlay QC, representing the partner of victim Robert Jenkins said: "I'm trying to understand what the atmosphere in the cockpit would be like. You wouldn't have ignored that (fuel warning), would you?"

The police constable replied: "No, I wouldn't."

'Satisfying explanation'

He was then asked if he would "require some satisfying explanation from the pilot if he was ignoring" the warnings.

Mr Rennie said: "In answer to your question, if he was ignoring them, then yes."

The witness also said the acknowledgement of a warning would be made by either the pilot or the front observer and it "might be fairly quick".

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 heard Mr Rennie became a part-time air observer in 2006 and full-time in 2012.

Sean Smith QC, for the Crown, asked: "Have you ever seen a low fuel warning in your time in the air?"

Mr Rennie said he had not, but had seen it when on the ground before or during checks and did not know if the fuel caution was a frequent indicator.

Sheriff principal Craig Turnbull asked if he could recall seeing it in his 12 or 13 years of experience, to which Mr Rennie again answered: "No."

Mr Rennie was the rear day shift observer in the helicopter on the 29 November, hours before the fatal crash.

The inquiry was shown a document detailing the flights from that shift, with the first journey from Glasgow to Inverness between 09:05 and 10:15.

Mr Rennie said this was to refuel at Inverness before going on to a search – with a full tank – at Strathpeffer nearby.

The search took place during the second flight between 10:50 and 12.25 before landing in Inverness to refuel again..

Clutha inquiry: The evidence so far

  • Helicopter modifications 'could have prevented crash'
  • Safety issue raised 10 years before Clutha crash
  • Helicopter pilot 'should have issued mayday'
  • Police inspector describes helicopter's fuel warning 'issues'
  • Engineer's fears over helicopter maintenance
  • Clutha pilot had previous fuel warning light
  • 'No evidence' of helicopter fuel contamination
  • Lack of crash evidence 'frustrating'
  • Inquiry told how victims died
  • Pilot given five low fuel warnings
  • Helicopter 'spluttered before crashing on pub

From there they conducted a short search of Dores, near Loch Ness, before returning to Glasgow at 14:35, when Mr Rennie completed paperwork before the end of his shift.

Mr Smith asked: "Were you aware of any defects or anything unusual with the aircraft?"

The witness replied: "No, I wasn't."

He was asked if there had been "any discussion between you and the pilot" about any problems.

Mr Rennie said: "I don't recall any."

The inquiry, before Sheriff principal Turnbull, continues.

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