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Leicester City helicopter crash - Aviation expert expresses concerns at yet another fatal helicopter accident

Aviation Lawyer and former RAF pilot says the number of twin engine helicopter accidents in the UK is worrying and calls for prompt publication of an accident report so that lessons can be learned.

 On Saturday 27 October 2018 an Augusta Westland AW169 helicopter crashed near to Leicester City's stadium shortly after take-off. In video footage of the helicopter carrying the Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha's it can be seen spinning out of control just before it crashed killing him and two members of his staff, Nusara Suknamai, Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and his partner, Izabela Roza Lechowicz.

The video shows the helicopter lifting off from the stadium and climbing vertically for about 40 seconds, before it pauses and goes into a downward spin.

The AW169 is a twin engine helicopter that can seat 10 people and the accident aircraft was manufactured in 2016. It is reported that this was the first crash and hull loss involving the AW169.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch has recovered the aircraft wreckage and flight data recorder (FDR) which has been transported to Farnborough. The FDR suffered serious fire damage.

Jim Morris, Head of Aviation at Ashfords LLP and former RAF pilot, specialises in representing the victims of air accidents and has acted in numerous twin engine helicopter  accidents, including the CHC Airbus Helicopters ditching into the North Sea in 2012, the CHC Airbus Helicopters crash into the North Sea in 2013 and the Bond Police Airbus Helicopters crash into Glasgow in 2013.

Jim commented: " A modern twin engine helicopter such as this AW169 has significant safety redundancy so this accident is shocking and should not have occurred.  Furthermore, the accident could have been even more devastating if the helicopter had crashed onto buildings or a crowded area below, as was the case in the Police helicopter crash in Glasgow."

"Over the last 10 years  there has been a concerning number of twin engine helicopter crashes in the UK with causes including gearbox problems, human factors and fuel starvation. With this further loss it is crucial that the air accident investigators quickly identify the full chain of events so that lessons can be learned.

"There are reports in the media attributing the cause to a problem with the tail rotor. Such a problem could be a reason why the helicopter lost directional control and started to spin, but whether this was the cause and any other contributory factors needs to be determined by a detailed accident investigation."

"Fortunately this AW169 helicopter was fitted with a FDR which will hopefully provide the investigators with real time data on the chain of events that led to this accident.  If they can successfully download this data they should be able to obtain answers relatively quickly and, in turn, publish a preliminary report which confirms the key factors that caused this tragedy, so that the operators and manufacturers can implement all necessary measures to improve  flight safety and prevent similar accidents in the future."

"This is a devastating accident and our thoughts are with the victims' families."