Commercial, Regulatory, Safety

UK Transport Workers Union Calls for Investigation of North Sea Helicopter Safety

By Frank Wolfe | April 1, 2019
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Airbus said the H225 is certified for flight in icing conditions and designed with a damage-tolerant rotor system and fuselage, as well as a state-of-the-art avionics system that greatly reduces pilot workload to improve safety (Airbus photo)

The U.K.'s National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transportation Workers (RMT) on April 1 called for an investigation of the safety of offshore oil rig helicopters in the North Sea on the 10th anniversary of the high-profile fatal crash of a Super Puma helicopter.

On April 1, 2009 the main gearbox on a Bond Offshore AS332L2 failed in flight, and the main rotor broke away from the aircraft, according to the U.K. Air Accident Investigations Branch (AAIB). The helicopter's crash in the North Sea 15 miles northeast of Peterhead, Scotland caused the deaths of the two pilots and 14 passengers, who were oil platform workers travelling from the Miller Oil Platform to Aberdeen.

Bond Offshore Helicopters is now part of Babcock International Group.
The crash of an Airbus H225 Super Puma in April 2016 in Norway led to a petition drive that collected thousands of signatures asking the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority to revoke the airworthiness certificates for the H225 and to have such aircraft "permanently removed from service."
The cause of the Apr. 1, 2009 crash is "very similar to the causes of two ditchings and the fatal accident off Norway" in Apr. 2016, RMT said.
The fatal accident inquiry by the AAIB "took nearly five years and achieved next to nothing in the way of justice or meaningful lessons," according to RMT.
Mick Cash, the general secretary of RMT, said "offshore workers remain angry that despite a five-year fatal accident inquiry process we still await justice, meaningful changes and the public inquiry into helicopter safety in the North Sea that has long been our central demand."

“Meanwhile confidence in the safety of offshore helicopter transport has declined as we continue to see commercial pressures on standards in a culture of cost-cutting," he added. “On this grim anniversary for the industry, the union pledges to step up the fight for North Sea helicopter safety, a public inquiry and lasting changes to regulatory standards that are the best way to restore offshore workers’ confidence.”

Super Puma crashes in the North Sea have led to temporary groundings of the rotorcraft and safety modifications validated by the European Aviation Safety Agency, such as redesigned bevel wheel vertical shafts on the main gear box.

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