“Performance issues” and “age” dog INEM helicopter fleet

An investigation following the tragic pre-Christmas helicopter crash that killed four has revealed that half the fleet hired by the State for INEM medical services has ‘issues’ that see it flying while violating the terms of a €38.7 million contract signed with British multinational Babcock.

The Augusta 109S chopper that came down in appalling weather conditions killing all four people on board on December 15 has been replaced by an aircraft that “does not comply with performance requirements”, writes Jornal de Notícias.

In Évora, a Bell 412 also operated by INEM “exceeds the (stipulated) age limit”.

Babcock nonetheless has “guaranteed” that both craft are flying with INEM authorisation.

Questioned by journalists, an official source for the company has added that a replacement for the Bell should come early next year (“most likely in March”) and that this will “clearly exceed the technical requirements of the contract” signed in August this year between Babcock and the SPMS (shared services of the health ministry).

Regarding the substitute helicopter for the Augusta 109S, the source said that priority had been to get medical teams back up in the air. The helicopter will also be “opportunely substituted” by one with the characteristics demanded in the current supply contract, said the source, though it is unclear when this will happen.

JN says it has sought commentary from both INEM and SPMS “but has not received a reply”.

Portuguese companies HeliPortugal and Everjets -“both of which have legal disputes ongoing with the Portuguese State” – also vied for the contract eventually clinched by Babcock, adds the paper.

TRAGIC HELI “DID NOT HAVE GPS SYSTEM” DEMANDED BY CONTRACT

Days after the fatalities near Valongo (click here), JN reported that the Augusta 109S “did not have a GPS” or indeed any flight tracking device on board.

This detail was another that failed to follow the terms of the contract with Babcock.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com