Super Puma helicopter: "unacceptable" safety record

A massive rescue operation was called after another Super Puma L2 helicopter went down in the North Sea approximately two miles west of Sumburgh airport as it was returning to Shetland from the Borgsten Dolphin platform. The helicopter was carrying 16 workers and two crew. Police have named four dead from the crash as Duncan Munro, 46, Gary McCrossan , 59, Sarah Darnley, 45, and George Allison, 57.

Choppers grounded after crash

Following the fatal Super Puma helicopter crash, key offshore operators held emergency meetings to discuss contingency plans. Helicopter Safety Steering Group (HSSG) which is made up of representatives from oil and gas firms, helicopter operators, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and offshore unions and companies agreed to suspend commercial flights to and from UK offshore installations for all Super Puma models.

Helicopter operator CHC said it has grounded the Super Puma model AS332 L2 which ditched without warning while carrying the 18 workers on Friday evening until the cause of this latest event are established. The company also said it had suspended all commercial flight for three other Super Puma models following a recommendation from an aviation safety association: the AS332 L, L1 and EC225.

The wreckage of the AS332 L2 that crashed in the North Sea has since been lifted onto a coastguard tug and will be examined by experts from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch to determine the cause of the crash. Preliminary analysis indicates the aircraft experienced a “catastrophic” loss of power as it approached the airport on the southern tip of Shetland's main island.

The helicopter was being operated by CHC on behalf of Total Oil Company.

Past Super Puma crashes

News of the latest Super Puma helicopter crash comes after two other Super Puma helicopters ditched in the North Sea only six months apart last year. All passengers and crew were fortunately rescued in the 2012 crashes. Sadly, however, in April 2009 all 16 men on board a Bond Super Puma helicopter perished after the aircraft came down off Peterhead due to a gearbox problem.

The latest incident marks the fourth in four years involving Super Puma aircraft. Unite union's Scottish Secretary, Pat Rafferty, said that the safety record of the Super Puma helicopter was "unacceptable" and called on the oil and gas industry to use "every means at their disposal to demonstrate that its fleet is fit for purpose."

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