Statoil completes in-house investigation into Super Puma fatal accident


Norwegian oil giant Statoil has completed an investigation into the fatal helicopter accident that happened on April 29, 2016, when a helicopter carrying workers from a Statoil platform crashed into the Turøy island, near Bergen.

All passengers and pilots in a CHC Super Puma helicopter died on their way back to land, flying from the Statoil-operated Gullfaks B platform to Flesland when the Main Rotor Head (MRH) and mast suddenly detached from the Airbus Helicopters H225 type helicopter.

The helicopter then impacted on a small island east of Turøy. All thirteen people on board perished.

The accident caused all the Airbus H225 Super Puma helicopters for civil usage to be grounded, and the flight ban still remains in place, with some suggesting the helicopter type might no longer fly at all. A petition has been launched to retire the Super Puma, and it has so far attracted 27.000 signatures.

The Accident Investiation Board Norway (AIBN) found that the accident most likely was a result of a fatigue fracture in one of the eight-second stage planet gears. It appears that the fracture has propagated in a manner which is unlikely to become detected by existing mandatory or supplementary systems for warning of an imminent failure.

In-house investigation

While the Accident Investigation Board Norway is responsible for identifying the chain of events and causes of the accident, Statoil in May decided to launch an in-house investigation.

The company then said the aim was to identify measures to improve Statoil’s helicopter safety work on the NCS, and to learn from the emergency response to the accident.

Statoil said on Friday that its investigation showed Statoil’s helicopter safety work on the NCS is good.

At the same time, the report stresses that the industry’s efficiency improvement efforts and increased focus on costs must not compromise safety, emphasising that a possible introduction in Norway of common European safety requirements will change the risk picture associated with helicopter operations.

“We will follow up on the recommendations given by the investigation to enhance Statoil’s helicopter safety and emergency response. Our clear ambition is to maintain our leading role in further developing and enhancing the existing helicopter safety standard. The report provides a good basis for ensuring an optimal organization and holistic approach to this,” says Statoil’s chief operating officer, Anders Opedal.

“The Turøy accident was a tragedy for all those affected, and for the seven companies that lost close colleagues. It is essential that everyone working offshore can be confident in helicopter transportation. We will now, together with the oil and gas industry, government authorities, helicopter operators, and union representatives use findings in the report to further improve safety,” says Statoil’s executive vice president for Development and Production Norway, Arne Sigve Nylund.

Statoil says its investigation concluded that, on the whole, Statoil’s emergency response to the Turøy helicopter accident, from mobilization in the morning of Friday 29 April 2016 to demobilization in the morning of Monday 2 May 2016, is considered good.

Below are the key elements Statoil shared on Friday, related to  helicopter safety and emergency response

Key elements in relation to helicopter safety:

  • The efforts to see the connection between factors (technical and commercial aspects) that may, individually or in combination, affect the safety associated with helicopter transportation need to be improved. Based on this, a clearer aviation safety strategy and associated plan need to be developed.
  • The organization of helicopter safety efforts in Statoil appears complicated with many players and varying understanding of the individual’s role in this work. Although there has been no indication so far that this has affected the quality of the helicopter safety work, the investigation team recommends a review of the organization of the helicopter safety work in Statoil in order to ensure simplification and clearer description of roles.
  • Statoil should consider actions to facilitate better interaction and information sharing between the helicopter operators and the helicopter manufacturers.
  • Statoil should consider whether the aviation safety efforts should to an even greater extent emphasize impact mitigation measures.
  • New common European rules will change the risk picture associated with helicopter services on the NCS. At the same time, the industry is facing changes that may challenge the focus on helicopter safety. Statoil must therefore elucidate its own ambition of maintaining and continuously improving the current helicopter safety standard.
  • In order for Statoil to maintain its leading role within helicopter safety work new personnel capable of maintaining skills and capacity in Statoil’s flight safety department must be recruited.

Key elements in relation to emergency response:

  • The company must have more emergency response exercises with preferred external collaboration partners in order to ensure good interaction and coordination.
  • Access to the personnel logistics system (DaWinci) must be automatically adjusted to the roles in the emergency response organization and must be updated.
  • Procedure must be established to ensure that information to travellers at the heliports is taken care of in an early phase following an incident.
  • Statoil must review procedures and systems for communication handling in order to identify any improvements that can confirm information at an earlier stage and address the consideration of communicating key information to the general public as soon as possible

Here one can find a full report by Statoil (PDF in Norwegian)

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