The UK and Norway are going to lift the ban on the Super Puma helicopters put in place after the fatal crash near Turøy in Norway in April 2016.
The flight restrictions in UK and Norway on H225LP and AS332L2 helicopters, popularly known as Super Pumas, have been in place since April 2016, when a CHC helicopter carrying 13 people from Statoil’s Gullfaks B platform field crashed, after its rotor loosened and detached mid-air All thirteen people aboard the ill-fated aircraft died.
In a statement on Friday, the UK Civil Aviation Authority said UK and Norwegian regulators were going to remove restrictions that prevent operators using the helicopters.
“Both the UK Civil Aviation Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of Norway have remained in close contact with the European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA); UK and Norwegian operators; and with the manufacturer, Airbus Helicopters which has developed the modifications and enhanced safety measures for the type. Despite the helicopter being released back in to service by EASA in October 2016, the restrictions remain in place in the UK and Norway until these further enhancements have been made,” the UK CAA said.
Changes and modifications made to the helicopter and its maintenance by Airbus Helicopters include:
• Change in the design by removal of the components that were susceptible to premature deterioration.
• Earlier replacement of components
• Design change to introduce an improved maintenance inspection method to detect any deterioration at an early stage.
• More frequent inspections
• Reduction in the thresholds for rejecting components based upon early signs of any deterioration.
Decision not taken lightly
The UK CAA said that helicopters will not begin flying immediately. A plan of checks, modifications and inspections needs to be undertaken before any flights take place.
It will also be for operators and their customers to decide whether they wish to re-introduce the helicopters to service. In order to resume operations individual operators will need to supply safety cases to ensure that they have all the necessary measures (procedures, processes, tooling and training) in place for a return to service.
Explaining the decision John McColl, Head of Airworthiness at the UK CAA, said: “This is not a decision we have taken lightly. It has only been made after receiving extensive information from the Norwegian accident investigators and being satisfied with the subsequent changes introduced by Airbus Helicopters through detailed assessment and analysis.
“The safety of those who travel on offshore helicopter flights is a key priority for both the UK and Norwegian aviation authorities. We would not have made this decision unless we were convinced that the changes to the helicopters and their maintenance restore the required airworthiness standards.
“We continue to work with the helicopter operators, the offshore industries, international regulators, unions and pilot representatives to enhance offshore safety standards still further and all these parties are actively involved in ongoing discussions.”
To remind, following the accident in Norway, an online petition was launched calling for the EC 225 Airbus Super Puma helicopter to be retired.
The petition on Change.org, supported by more than 27000 people asked the Airbus 225 Super Puma to be permanently removed from service as “it’s been involved in one incident too many, where yet again fatalities have occurred, and you wish to express a vote of no-confidence in the safety of this airframe.”
“We call on the CAA to put the lives of Offshore Oil Workers and the pilots before vested interests, and revoke the air worthiness certificates for this aircraft. Failure to do this we feel will result in more needless deaths,” the text of the petition, subsequently delivered to the CAA, reads.