2013 Glasgow helicopter crash

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Glasgow helicopter crash
G-SPAO (8491328815).jpg
The helicopter involved in the crash, photographed in 2010
Accident summary
Date 29 November 2013, 22:22 GMT
Summary Double engine flame-out, pilot error
Site The Clutha Vaults, 169 Stockwell Street, Glasgow, Scotland
55°51′16″N 4°15′0″W / 55.85444°N 4.25000°W / 55.85444; -4.25000Coordinates: 55°51′16″N 4°15′0″W / 55.85444°N 4.25000°W / 55.85444; -4.25000
Crew 3
Fatalities 10 (3 crew; 7 on ground)
Injuries (non-fatal) 31, of which 11 were serious (all on the ground)
Aircraft type Eurocopter EC135-T2+
Operator Bond Air Services for Police Scotland
Registration G-SPAO
Flight origin Glasgow City Heliport

On 29 November 2013, a police helicopter crashed into the Clutha Vaults, a pub on the north bank of the River Clyde in central Glasgow.[1][2][3] The aircraft was operated by Bond Air Services for Police Scotland and was being crewed by a civilian pilot and two police officers. The cause of the crash was a double engine flame-out due to pilot error.

Ten people died as a result of the accident: all three who were on board the helicopter and six on the ground, and another person died two weeks later from injuries received in the pub.[4][5][6][7][8]

The Clutha Vaults remained closed until July 2015.[9]


The accident aircraft was a twin-engined Eurocopter EC135 T2+, serial 0546, registered G-SPAO and manufactured in 2007.[10] At the time of the accident it had flown for 6,351 hours and made 9,385 landings.[11]


The helicopter took off from its base at Glasgow City Heliport (which at the time operated from Stobcross Quay adjacent to the SECC) at 20:45 on 29 November 2013.[10] The pilot was 51-year-old David Traill; Traill had flown Chinook helicopters in the RAF for 20 years, latterly as an instructor.[12] He had worked for the police for four years, and had 646 hours of flight experience on the EC135.[10][13] The helicopter carried two police observers, PCs Kirsty Nelis and Tony Collins.[13] On takeoff it carried 400 kg of fuel.[10]

The flight, callsign SP99, was initially involved in the search for a suspected trespasser on railway lines around Eglinton Toll.[13] It was then tasked to Dalkeith in Midlothian, around 44 miles (71 km) east of its base, before returning to the Glasgow area.[10] A few minutes before the crash, the pilot had received air traffic control clearance to return to Glasgow City Heliport.[10]

At 22:22, approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) east of its home base, the helicopter came down on the flat roof of the Clutha Vaults bar in Stockwell Street.[10] (Clutha is Latin for the River Clyde, which is adjacent to the pub).[14] No distress call was made.[15] A ska band, Esperanza, was playing in the pub at the time of the crash and there were reported to be around 120 people in the building, some of whom were trapped by the collapsing roof.[1] Thirty-two people were injured, eleven of them seriously.[16] One witness, Gordon Smart, editor of the Scottish Sun, stated that he did not see a fireball or hear an explosion, and that the engine seemed to be misfiring.

Emergency response[edit]

View of the accident site in 2008; the Clutha Vaults is the cream building in the foreground

The building is a former tenement which used to have multiple storeys, but after a fire in the 1960s the upper storeys were removed. The walls were therefore much thicker than would be expected for a building of this height, and the complex construction of the roof complicated the search and rescue operation.[17][18] The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service deployed 125 firefighters to the scene rescuing people trapped in the building for hours after the incident.[7] Urban search and rescue firefighters were also in attendance to shore up unstable parts of the building and to excavate collapsed areas. People rescued from the scene were initially taken by the emergency services to a nearby Holiday Inn hotel.[1] Labour Party MP Jim Murphy was interviewed as he was passing soon after the crash.[3][7]

32 people were taken for treatment to local hospitals including Glasgow Royal Infirmary and Glasgow Victoria Infirmary, a dozen with injuries classed as serious.[10][19] An emergency phone number was set up for anyone concerned about family and relatives who may have been in and around the pub,[7] and Glasgow City Council established a family reception centre to "provide advice and counselling to relatives of people who have been injured or people whose relatives are unaccounted for".[20] One of the seriously injured victims died from his injuries on 12 December.[11]


Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond tweeted confirmation that the helicopter was a police aircraft.[1] He subsequently described the crash as "a black day for Glasgow and for Scotland".[21] Glasgow MSP and Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont,[22] Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson,[23] British Prime Minister David Cameron,[24] Opposition leader Ed Miliband,[25] the Queen,[26] and Pope Francis[27] all publicly expressed their condolences.

On the day following the crash, planned St. Andrew's Day celebrations in Glasgow's George Square were cancelled, and flags were flown at half-mast on Scottish Government buildings.[19] Scottish football clubs held a pre-match minute's silence.[28] Special services were held at Glasgow's St Andrew's Cathedral[29] and Glasgow Cathedral.[30]

The Prince of Wales visited the crash site on 6 December and met emergency service personnel.[31] Police investigated offensive, racist or sectarian comments made about the crash on social media.[32][needs update] A weekend of fundraising events for the families of the victims and the emergency services was held on 3–5 January 2014.[33][needs update]


The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), which is responsible for investigating aircraft crashes in the United Kingdom, launched an investigation into the cause of the accident.[34] Its staff were on-site from 09:15 the next morning.[10] Assistance in the investigation was provided by the German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation and the French Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la Sécurité de l'Aviation Civile aviation incident investigation bodies (the manufacturers of the helicopter and its engine are based in Germany and France).[10][35] The American National Transportation Safety Board (representing the state of the manufacturer of the engines' FADEC controls), also provided assistance.[11]

The wreckage of the helicopter arrived at the AAIB's headquarters at Farnborough, Hampshire on 3 December.[36] The aircraft was not fitted with flight data recorders but the electronics fitted to the aircraft could contain data helpful in determining the cause of the accident.[37]

Police appealed for copies of any footage of the scene before or after the incident.[19]

Preliminary findings[edit]

The AAIB issued a preliminary report of its findings on 9 December.[10][38] It confirmed that the rotor blades were attached,[38] but neither they nor the fenestron tail rotor were rotating at the time of impact.[10] No evidence of engine or gearbox failure was found and there were around 95 litres (21 imp gal; 25 US gal) of fuel still on board.[38]

The aircraft struck the building with "a high rate of descent and low/negligible forward speed"[10] and no part of it detached in flight.[37] It came to rest approximately upright.[10]

On 14 February 2014, the AAIB issued a Special Bulletin on the accident. It stated that the cause of the accident was that both engines had flamed out, but the reasons that they had done so had not yet been determined. The report stated that one of the two tanks supplying the engines was empty and the other contained 0.4 kilograms (0.88 lb) of fuel. A third tank, known as the main tank, was reported to contain 75 kilograms (165 lb) of fuel but the transfer pumps supplying this fuel to the two engine fuel tanks were found with their switches in the "off" position.[16][39]

Final report[edit]

The final report into the accident was published on 23 October 2015. It found the main cause of the accident to be mismanagement of the fuel system by the pilot. This resulted in the engines flaming out due to a lack of fuel despite there being 73 kilograms (161 lb) of usable fuel remaining in the main tanks. A failure to follow emergency checklists and land within ten minutes of the first warning of low fuel was a major contributory factor. Seven safety recommendations were made.[11]

Legal proceedings[edit]

Civil proceedings against Bond Aviation Group were begun by victims' lawyers Irwin Mitchell in January 2014, when they sent a letter of claim to the company's legal representatives.[40] Irwin Mitchell partner Elaine Russell alleged the company had "strict liability... for material loss or damage... to any person or property on land or water", under Section 76 (2) of the Civil Aviation Act 1982.[40]


  1. ^ a b c d Quinn, Ben (30 November 2013). "Police helicopter crashes into roof of Glasgow pub". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "Helicopter crash in central Glasgow". STV. 29 November 2013. Retrieved 29 November 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Police Helicopter Crashes into Glasgow Pub Roof". Sky News. 29 November 2013. Retrieved 29 November 2013. 
  4. ^ "Glasgow helicopter crash: Clutha death toll rises to 10". bbc.co.uk/news. BBC News. 12 December 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  5. ^ "Glasgow helicopter crash: Eight dead at Clutha pub". BBC News. 30 November 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  6. ^ "Glasgow helicopter crash: Ninth victim found". BBC News. 2 December 2013. Retrieved 2 December 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Helicopter crashes into Glasgow pub". BBC. 29 November 2013. Retrieved 29 November 2013. 
  8. ^ "Glasgow Clutha helicopter crash claims 10th victim". The Scotsman. Johnston Press. 12 December 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  9. ^ "New bar at Clutha to open after helicopter crash". BBC. 24 July 2015. Retrieved 24 July 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Air Accidents Investigation: S9/2013 – Eurocopter EC135 T2+, G-SPAO". Air Accidents Investigation Branch. 9 November 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2015. 
  11. ^ a b c d "AIRCRAFT ACCIDENT REPORT 3/2015 Report on the accident to Eurocopter (Deutschland) EC135 T2+, G-SPAO Glasgow City Centre, Scotland on 29 November 2013" (PDF). Air Accidents Investigation Branch. Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  12. ^ Gordon Darroch (2 December 2013). "Tributes paid as victims of Glasgow helicopter tragedy named". STV News. Retrieved 4 March 2015. 
  13. ^ a b c Cramb, Auslan (2 December 2013). "Glasgow helicopter crash: bravery of police officers who were killed". The Telegraph. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  14. ^ Scott Graham - ABACUS. "TheGlasgowStory: Clyde Navigation Trust". 
  15. ^ "Glasgow helicopter crash: Victims' bodies released to families". BBC Online. 3 December 2013. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  16. ^ a b "AAIB Bulletin S2/2014 SPECIAL" (PDF). Air Accidents Investigation Branch. Retrieved 14 February 2014. 
  17. ^ Carrell, Severin (2 December 2013). "Ninth Glasgow helicopter victim's body removed past guard of honour". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  18. ^ Garavelli, Dani (7 December 2013). "Insight: The Clutha – best bar none". The Scotsman. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  19. ^ a b c "Glasgow helicopter crash: Police appeal for Clutha tragedy video". BBC News. 30 November 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  20. ^ "Glasgow helicopter crash claims eight lives". The Targe. 30 November 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2013. 
  21. ^ "Helicopter Crash: Relatives Face Anxious Wait". Sky News. British Sky Broadcasting. 1 December 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2013. 
  22. ^ "Reaction: Glasgow Clutha pub helicopter crash". The Scotsman. Johnston Press. 30 November 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  23. ^ "In quotes: Glasgow helicopter crash reaction". BBC News. BBC. 30 November 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  24. ^ "Glasgow helicopter crash: Response 'courage' praised". BBC News. 30 November 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  25. ^ "Glasgow helicopter crash: search for survivors continues". Channel 4 News. 30 November 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  26. ^ "Helicopter Crashes into Glasgow Pub: Eight Die". Sky News. British Sky Broadcasting. 30 November 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  27. ^ Carrell, Severin (3 December 2013). "Relatives of Glasgow crash victims question speed of recovery operation". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  28. ^ "Glasgow helicopter crash: McKeown plays after rescue duties". BBC Sport. BBC. 30 November 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2013. 
  29. ^ Levdon, Liz (30 November 2013). "'We pray for our city of Glasgow, which is in mourning today'". Scottish Catholic Observer. Retrieved 1 December 2013. 
  30. ^ Duffy, Owen (1 December 2013). "Glasgow mourns helicopter crash victims at cathedral service". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 2 December 2013. 
  31. ^ "Prince visits Glasgow after police helicopter crash". BBC News. 6 December 2013. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  32. ^ "Glasgow helicopter crash: Clutha hate comments investigated by police". BBC Online. 8 December 2013. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  33. ^ Mcleod, Kayleigh (3 January 2014). "Clutha Benefit Weekender will see pubs across the city rock out for charity". STV. Retrieved 12 January 2014. 
  34. ^ "The AAIB has sent a team to investigate the helicopter accident in Glasgow City Centre". Air Accidents Investigation Branch. 30 November 2013. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2013. The AAIB has sent a team to investigate the helicopter accident in Glasgow City Centre 
  35. ^ Eurocopter, Safety Information Notice No. 2665-S-00-Rev-1, 3 December 2013
  36. ^ "Glasgow helicopter crash: Air accident investigators begin work". BBC News Online. 4 December 2013. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  37. ^ a b "Glasgow crash search continues". BBC News. 2 December 2013. Retrieved 2 December 2013. 
  38. ^ a b c "BBC News – Clutha helicopter crash: No mechanical fault found". BBC Online. 9 November 2013. Retrieved 9 December 2013. 
  39. ^ "Clutha crash: Police helicopter engines 'flamed out'". BBC News. BBC. 14 February 2014. Retrieved 14 February 2014. 
  40. ^ a b "Glasgow helicopter crash: Legal action begins against Bond Aviation Group". BBC Online. 10 January 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 

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