Super Puma helicopter flights to resume after Shetland crash
- 30 August 2013
- From the section NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland
A meeting of industry representatives has recommended that Super Puma helicopters should be cleared to fly.
All offshore flights by the Super Puma had been suspended following the crash off Shetland last week which killed four oil workers.
The Helicopter Safety Steering Group (HSSG) said a campaign would be started to engage with the offshore workforce.
Earlier the missing flight data recorder of the crashed helicopter was recovered.
Les Linklater of HSSG said: "Four people tragically lost their lives on Friday. However there are almost 16,000 people offshore currently, with over 12,000 in the most affected areas (central and northern North Sea).
"Today, there are over 250 people who have spent more than 21 days offshore, this is increasing daily and they and their families are wondering when they are going to get home.
"We have a duty of care to all offshore workers both in terms of their safety and their well-being; we must consider the cumulative risk of the 'time out'. We must avoid a further tragedy through the introduction of human factor-based risk such as fatigue, stress and other well-being concerns that increase the likelihood of a high consequence - low frequency event."
He added: "The individual helicopter operating companies will now work with their customers, to ensure the correct information and confidence-building communication is available, sensitive to the individual needs of the offshore workforce, before returning to full commercial passenger service."
The L2 model of Super Puma, the type involved in the Shetland crash, will be initially re-introduced for "non-passenger revenue operations only".
This means non-passenger carrying maintenance, positioning and training flights.
Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union, told BBC Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme that he backed the decision to return the Super Pumas to service, in light of the evidence currently available.
He said: "We agree with the decision, we've been party to this decision.
"We've looked at all the evidence. You've got to weigh up, at the end of the day, the pressures on individuals who are stranded on rigs and want to get back, or who've been away from work for two to three weeks.
"Also, at the end of the day, we've got to look at the evidence that was put in front of us and at this moment in time there's no reason why the crash was mechanical."
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said the combined voice and flight data recorder from the crashed helicopter, known as the "black box", would be taken to its Farnborough headquarters for analysis.
The AAIB said the Super Puma had appeared to show a "reduction in airspeed accompanied by an increased rate of descent".
The AAIB said it appeared the helicopter had been intact and upright when it entered the water.
However, it was too early to identify a cause of the crash.
The AAIB update reported: "Preliminary information indicates that the approach proceeded normally until approximately three miles from the runway when there was a reduction in airspeed accompanied by an increased rate of descent.
"The helicopter struck the sea approximately two miles west of the runway threshold.
"The evidence currently available suggests that the helicopter was intact and upright when it entered the water.
"It then rapidly inverted and drifted northwards. The helicopter was largely broken up by repeated contact with the rocky shoreline.
"The investigation is ongoing and at this early stage it is not possible to identify the causal factors leading to the accident."
Much of the wreckage of the Super Puma has been brought ashore.
Key parts arrived at Lerwick at 04:30 on the support vessel Bibby Polaris.
Divers had known the rough location of the flight data recorder, but heavy swell hampered efforts to retrieve it.
Marine engineering company Ocean Kinetics, which is carrying out the recovery operation, had already recovered the helicopter's gearbox and rotor head.
Four people died when the Super Puma AS332 L2 went down close to shore on a flight to Shetland's Sumburgh Airport from the Borgsten Dolphin rig.
They were Duncan Munro, 46, from Bishop Auckland, Sarah Darnley, 45, from Elgin, Gary McCrossan, 59, from Inverness, and George Allison, 57, from Winchester.
The crash was the fifth incident involving Super Pumas in the North Sea since 2009.
Aberdeen North MP Frank Doran has called for a public inquiry.
The Super Puma makes up the majority of the UK offshore industry's helicopter fleet.