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Cracks fear grounds two Welsh air ambulances and a police helicopter

Category: Wales

Published: 8th May 2012 18:48:28

Two of Wales' three air ambulances and a police helicopter have been grounded over concerns about possible cracks in a helicopter model's rotor blades.

Wales Air Ambulance (WAA) said its Gwynedd and Swansea crews were affected even though no defects had been found in its two leased EC 135s.

The Gwent and South Wales Police forces said the Eurocopter EC 135 they shared was also being stopped from flying.

Helicopter operator Bond Air Services has grounded 22 machines across the UK.

Bond said it had taken action after helicopter manufacturer Eurocopter issued a safety notice on Sunday morning urging operators to increase the frequency of checks on the EC 135 after cracks were found in several helicopters.

Eurocopter has not ordered that the fleet be grounded, but Bond said it felt compelled to take that decision.

Thirty EC 135s are used by 18 air ambulance services across England, Scotland and Wales.

WAA said its respected Bond's decision as the safety of patients and air crew was "absolutely paramount," although no defects had been found in its machines based in Caernarfon and Swansea.

It said a routine check of an EC 135 in Europe had found a small crack which was similar to a defect found on an EC 135 in Scotland in February.

It added: "WAA is still operational in Wales with the use of its third helicopter, which is a different model and not subject to the investigation."

The charity said its third helicopter, a 20-year-old machine based at Welshpool, Powys, is operating extended to cover the service.

WAA said it has leased two EC 135 air ambulances from Bond since 2009 and the model had an exemplary safety record.

The service has carried out more 16,000 missions to date since its launch on St David's Day 2001, with each mission costing approximately £1,500.

It said that the service costs £6m per year to run.

South Wales Police Ch Supt Cliff Filer said the air support unit helicopter jointly used with Gwent Police had been grounded following the decision by Bond Air Services.

He said: "We are working closely with Bond Air Services to come to a solution to source a temporary replacement aircraft.

"Under a mutual aid agreement, adjacent forces are providing air support for our region during this time."

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BBC News, 2012. Cracks fear grounds two Welsh air ambulances and a police helicopter [Online] (Updated 8th May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1427226/Cracks-fear-grounds-two-Welsh-air-ambulances-and-a-police-helicopter [Accessed 2nd Sep 2014]

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