AS332L3. Photo from file.
The civil aviation authorities of the U.K. and Norway said they are ready to give the Airbus Helicopters H225LPs and AS332L2s a cautious “go ahead.” The regulators said Friday they have plans to lift operation restrictions, so long as some measures are met.
Airbus has “developed the modifications and enhanced safety measures for the type,” CAA U.K. said. “Despite the helicopter being released back into service by EASA in October 2016, the restrictions remain in place in the U.K. and Norway until these further enhancements have been made.”
Airbus made the following changes and modifications to the helicopter and maintenance, according to CAA U.K.:
- Change in the design by removal of the components that were susceptible to premature deterioration.
- Earlier replacement of components
- Design change to introduce an improved maintenance inspection method to detect any deterioration at an early stage.
- More frequent inspections
- Reduction in the thresholds for rejecting components based upon early signs of any deterioration.
Before any H225LPs and AS332L2s can operate, checks, modifications and inspections need to take place, CAA U.K. said. Should operators want to fly these airframes, each individual operator needs to “supply safety cases to ensure that they have all the necessary measures (procedures, processes, tooling and training) in place for a return to service,” CAA U.K. said.
That operators have the choice of whether or not to reintroduce the H225LP and AS332L2 is a point emphasized by member-led Step Change in Safety. The nonprofit organization reminded operators that the aviation authorities have not given permission for the helicopters’ immediate return. The Step Change in Safety statement reads:
Les Linklater, Executive Director of Step Change in Safety said: “We recognize that the Civil Aviation Authorities in the U.K. and Norway have set out plans to lift the operating restrictions currently in place on the H225LP and AS332L2 Airbus helicopters. It is extremely important to point out that this will not mean an immediate return to service.
“Moreover, it will be up to the oil and gas companies and helicopter operators to decide if they wish to consider the return to service of these aircraft. Any re-introduction will require a robust safety case, as well as a requirement for a series of checks, modification and inspections that must be carried out before undertaking any flying.
“At this time, there is an ongoing Airbus survey for pilots and passengers regarding these specific helicopters’ flight safety and comfort, which was issued just one week ago. It’s our understanding that this survey still has a further three weeks to run.
“Given the importance of the workforce’s opinion regarding this highly emotive subject we do not feel it’s appropriate to make any further comment until Airbus has gathered, and shared, the survey’s results and can demonstrate how they intend to address any concerns raised by the workforce.
“We would encourage all members of the workforce to participate and have their voices heard.”
April 29, 2016, a CHC Helicopter EC225LP crashed off the coast of Norway, killing 11 passengers and both pilots. The preliminary report from Accident Investigation Board Norway (AIBN) said its investigation points to a fatigue fracture in the main rotor gearbox as the cause of the crash. However, it was unknown, at that point, what caused the fracture.