Fault Found In Air Ambulance Helicopters

Safety checks have been ordered on a type of helicopter used by air ambulance services across the UK after a fault was found which could cause them to crash.

A crack was discovered on the main rotor hub of one Eurocopter EC135 helicopter, prompting a safety warning by the European Aviation Safety Agency (Easa).

The agency has ordered pre-flight checks until an investigation into the problem concludes.

''This condition, if not detected and corrected, could lead to further crack propagation, possibly resulting in main rotor hub failure and consequent loss of the helicopter,'' Easa warned in a directive issued on March 15.

About 1,000 of the craft 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.

A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said today:

''We were notified at once of this issue by the aircraft's operator, Bond Air Services.

''The part was replaced immediately and Bond are carrying out detailed daily inspections of the aircraft in line with the Easa directive.

''The safety of both patients and air crew is absolutely paramount and we would not allow them to fly if there was the least doubt about airworthiness.

''Bond is working closely with Eurocopter on this issue and is assured that the aircraft remain safe and serviceable.''

A spokesman for North West Air Ambulance said it was notified about the safety directive today.