Suspended air ambulance services across England will resume operation this week after being grounded over safety fears.
Flights of 22 Eurocopter helicopters, including 16 air ambulances, were suspended as a precaution by operator Bond Air Services following the discovery of a crack on the main rotor hub of an air ambulance in Scotland last month.
Eurocopter’s EC 135 helicoper model is used in air ambulance services across 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.
Bond Air Services said Eurocopter had advised pre and post-flight checks after the fault was discovered but that Bond had decided to halt flights as a precaution until further notice on safety grounds.
Bond said flights would resume from 7am on Wednesday after discussions with manufacturer Eurocopter.
The operator said it took the decision to resume flights after receiving “an unequivocal guarantee” from Eurocopter that the EC 135 was safe to fly.
A company spokesman said last night: “Over the last 34 hours, Bond Air Services has worked intensively with Eurocopter’s programme engineers to determine if the fleet can be flown safely.
“Eurocopter’s team have developed a deeper understanding of the strength and the stress levels present within the rotor hub and have shared the information with UK CAA and EASA.
“As a result of this intensive engineering analysis, Eurocopter has given an unequivocal guarantee that the EC 135 is safe to fly within normal operational limits following the continuing practice of visual inspections prior to each flight.”
He added that investigation of the problem would continue in order to find a permanent solution.
West Midlands Ambulance Service said two helicopters flown in the area by the Air Ambulance Service had remained in service and contingency plans had been in place to cover for the three EC 135s run by the Midlands Air Ambulance charity,
A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokesman said: “Safety has to be the number one consideration for both patients and staff and we understand why Bond took the decision they did.
“Clearly it is good news that we will be back up to the full complement of five aircraft.”