Airbus Helicopters lifts ban on some Super Puma flights

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Published: May 3, 2016 9:52:26 AM

Airbus Helicopters is no longer recommending a blanket ban on commercial flights to operators of its H225 Super Puma helicopter, saying initial evidence suggested there was no link between Friday's crash in Norway and two North Sea accidents in 2012.

Airbus Helicopters is no longer recommending a blanket ban on commercial flights to operators of its H225 Super Puma helicopter, saying initial evidence suggested there was no link between Friday’s crash in Norway and two North Sea accidents in 2012.

On Friday Airbus Helicopters had recommended that all commercial flights be suspended following the crash, in which 13 people died.

A workhorse for the offshore oil industry, the Super Puma has been in operation since the 1970s. There are some 800 in operation worldwide, including all variants.

A spokesman for Airbus Helicopters said on Monday the helicopters would remain grounded for public transport in the UK and Norway, where regulators have imposed bans, but that commercial flights could resume elsewhere, subject to the decision of each operator.

Some operators, including CHC Helicopter whose helicopter crashed while returning from a Norwegian oil platform on Friday, continued to keep their Super Puma fleets grounded.

In 2012 Super Puma fleets were grounded after a pair of controlled ditchings in the UK sector of the North Sea that were later linked to gearbox cracks, prompting design modifications.

A spokesman for CHC said there had been no emergency radio calls from the pilots immediately before Friday’s crash and confirmed reports that the same helicopter had been forced to return to base twice in the days before the crash due to a warning light.

Boosting efforts to explain what caused the crash, Norway said two ‘black box’ flight recorders, recovered from the wreckage hours after the crash, had been successfully decoded in Britain and their data sent back to Norway for analysis.

The two orange canisters, one containing voice recordings and the other flight data, were in good condition, the Accident Investigation Board Norway (AIBN) said.

The version of the Super Puma which crashed on Friday, the H225 which is known to many pilots as the EC225LP, has been in use since 2004. There are 179 in service, 40 of them in the North Sea.

Besides serving oil rigs, Super Pumas are used mainly for coastguard operations, which remain unaffected.

International operator Bristow Group said it had grounded six of its nine Super Puma aircraft in Australia, keeping aloft only those needed for search and rescue.

It also grounded one out of five in Norway and all 13 of its Super Pumas in the UK until further notice.

UK operator Babcock MCS Offshore said on Friday it was grounding all four of its H225s in the UK.

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