AIR ambulance pilots who flew the same type of helicopter as the one which caused the Clutha disaster have told how their fuel gauges failed during flight.

Two airmen giving evidence at the inquiry into the accident, which cost the lives of ten people, spoke of getting faulty readings during flights in an EC-135 helicopter which said fuel tanks were full when they were actually dangerously depleted.

William Bryers, a former flying instructor and John Taylor, now a flight lieutenant with the RAF, were working for the air ambulance service in England when the incidents happened.  

Glasgow Times:

The wreckage took days to remove 

Captain Bryers said that the gauge gave an incorrect reading “about 30-35 kilos [of fuel] either way” while it was being flown, depending on the pitch of the aircraft.

Flt Lt Taylor recounted a further incident in the same aircraft where low fuel warnings sounded during a flight, despite gauges showing that both supply tanks were still full.

READ MORE: Clutha pilot rated "very good" before Glasgow crash

Both were speaking at the ongoing hearing into the disaster, which is taking place at a temporary court Hampden Park before Sheriff Principle Craig Turnbull.

Ten people died when police helicopter G-SPAO fell from the sky and crashed into the crowded Clutha Vaults pub in Glasgow on 29 November 2013.

The pilot and all passengers aboard the aircraft were among the fatalities. The question of how much fuel the aircraft had and what the crew knew about it has been central to the inquiry.

The problems aboard Captain Byers’ helicopter occurred during three different flights he made on 10 December 2013. The pilot saw changes in fuel levels when transitioning from a ‘take-off and hover’ position to level flight.

He said: “I had never experienced that, and it stood out to me. So I made notes to that.

“When taking off there was around 30 kilos less. Moving forward there was about 30 kilos above.”

Glasgow Times:

He said it was not connected to fuel being burned off while the aircraft was in operation, and that the fluctuations were greater than he had ever experienced before.

The incident was reported to Captain Bryers’ superiors, and noted in a technical log.

Details were also passed on to Flt Lt Taylor, who was flying the helicopter the next day. During a flight to Backpool where the aircraft was to be examined, the gauges failed again.

READ MORE: Inquiry hears from pilot who flew on day of Clutha crash in Glasgow​

Despite showing the instruments showing full tanks, fuel pump warning lights were activated in the cockpit, causing confusion among the crew.

Flt Lt Taylor: “If they had both been on I would not have lifted. During the climb both came on. I don’t know which one came on first, but there was not much time between them.

“It took me a few minutes for the light to go on in my head, and I said to the paramedic [onboard] that ‘there’s something not quite right here’.”

The aircraft landed safely at Blackpool with the fuel indicators showing that both supply tanks were full, and that the main tanks also had some fuel left, despite Flt Lt Taylor knowing it had to be empty by this point. By this point red low fuel lights had been activated on the dashboard.  

Glasgow Times:

The court also heard that a technical “information notice” was dispatched in March the next year by the helicopter’s manufacturer, which explained that fuel displays could be affected by the pitch of the aircraft and give faulty readings.

READ MORE: Clutha tragedy could have been prevented, expert says

Flt Lt Taylor said this came as a surprise to the pilots, who were unaware if the aircraft’s fuel supply ‘logic’.

He said: “It was quite a shock to learn that ‘logic’. We did not know our own fuel systems. It was talked about a great deal.”

Pilot David Traill, 51; PC Tony Collins, 43; and PC Kirsty Nelis, 36, died along with seven customers who were in the bar when it was struck by the helicopter -  Gary Arthur, 48; Joe Cusker, 59; Colin Gibson, 33; Robert Jenkins, 61; John McGarrigle, 58; Samuel McGhee, 56; and Mark O'Prey, 44.

The Inquiry continues.