Offshore helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky has reportedly instructed all owners of its S92 type helicopters to keep the units grounded, following a recent incident offshore the UK.
According to BBC, all S92 helicopters have been grounded for safety checks, and owners have been told to carry out the checks immediately.
The news agency says flight disruptions are expected during the rest of Tuesday.
To remind, a CHC helicopter of the Sikorsky S92 type experienced unexpected control responses during the final stages of a landing the West Franklin offshore platform in the North Sea on December 28, 2016.
According to an official report, the helicopter made a harder than normal landing and shut down, and the wheel assembly caused damage to the helideck.
While there have been reports that all the S92 have been grounded, the UK Civil Aviation Authority told Offshore Energy Today this is not the case.
Richard Taylor, Civil Aviation Authority’s press officer, told Offshore Energy Today that the S92s have not been grounded. He said that following an alert service bulletin operators are being advised to return the aircraft to maintenance bases to undergo inspections.
“Once those inspections have been completed the aircraft can return to service,” Taylor said. He also reiterated this was not “a regulatory decision.”
Sikorsky’s Alert Safet Bulletin is mandatory and will be complied with by helicopter operators worldwide, and requires operators to undertake:
One-off inspections of the tail rotor and bearing assemblies before the next flight.
A specific check of Health and Usage Monitoring System (HUMS) data for each aircraft. HUMS will detect early indications of any sign of failure.
The operators need to complete the checks on all the aircraft by midday Wednesday 11th January, 2017.
Another statement in response to the safety bulletin was issued by Oil & Gas UK’s Health, Safety and Environment Director Mick Borwell: “This is the expected response from a helicopter manufacturer when a potential problem has been identified. It is a precautionary measure to ensure the continued safe transportation of the workforce.
“There will be some short-term disruption to operations while these checks are carried out but every possible step will be taken to minimize that. We will continue to monitor events. We support any steps being taken to further ensure the safe travel of the UK offshore workforce.”
11 man hours. Short-term delays
Les Linklater, Executive Director of a member-led safety organization Step Change in Safety, said: “Sikorsky released an Alert Service Bulletin for the S92 requiring a one-time visual inspection of the tail rotor pitch change shaft and bearing assembly on the world wide S92 fleet before the next flight.
“The decision made by Sikorsky is a precautionary measure to ensure continued safe flight operations and we are aware that helicopter operators are working to assess the impact of this requirement while investigating all opportunities to limit the effects on the flying program. Currently, the duration of the inspections is expected to take up to 11 man hours, which means this will cause some short-term delays.
“We are in close communication with trades unions, helicopter operators, and the Civil Aviation Authority. Furthermore, the Offshore Helicopter Safety Leadership group has convened a call to discuss what is being done to maintain safe flight operations and limit the operational impact and inconvenience this has caused.”
Furthermore, in an email to Offshore Energy Today, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said it was not aware of any decision to ground the S92 and reverted us back to Air Accident Investigation Branch UK (AAIB UK) in charge of investigating civil aircraft accidents and serious incidents within the UK.
Bristow: Flights to resume tomorrow
Offshore Energy Today has managed to obtain a statement from Bristow, another North Sea helicopter operator:
“Early today, Tuesday 10 January 2017, Sikorsky released an Alert Service Bulletin to all helicopter operators, for the Sikorsky S-92 aircraft, requiring a one-time visual inspection of the Tail Rotor Pitch Change Shaft and Bearing assembly on the global S-92 fleet prior to the next flight.
“Bristow engineers have commenced the inspections and we anticipate that the checks, which will take up to six hours per aircraft, will be completed today on many of our aircraft to enable normal operations to recommence tomorrow. We are working to assess the impact on today’s flying program in the UK and Norway, and although delays are to be expected some flights may proceed today once aircraft are released by engineering.
“Bristow is in close and continuous correspondence with Sikorsky and our clients. Bristow is committed to providing safe operations for our passengers, clients and crews.”
Offshore Energy Today Staff