Ross Davidson, 14th April 2009
A leading oil industry organisation yesterday insisted all safety requirements will be met in the wake of the North Sea helicopter crash which killed 16 people.
Oil & Gas UK also said safety checks have been carried out on Super Puma L2s following an initial report by the Air Accident Investigations Branch into the accident.
The comments follow union calls for all Super Puma helicopters to be grounded.
Yesterday the RMT union again said the fleet should be grounded until a full report is published on the accident.
And the union insisted that more inspections would not be enough to quell the fears of offshore workers.
The AAIB interim report revealed a gearbox problem caused the crash on April 1, and recommended detailed maintenance checks be carried out on every L2.
Oil & Gas UK health and safety director Chris Allen said they had confirmed with all the Super Puma users that detailed checks had been carried out and the aircraft were safe to fly.
Mr Allen said: “All aircraft operating offshore are fully complying with the new requirement for enhanced inspections as set out in the alert service bulletin from the helicopter manufacturer, Eurocopter.”
Investigators reported the crash was caused by a “catastrophic failure” of the main gearbox, which caused the main rotor head to detach.
The spinning blades then severed the helicopter’s tail and the aircraft crashed into the sea off Peterhead.
A fault in the gearbox had been discovered a week before the crash, and was inspected daily each time the helicopter returned to Aberdeen. No further abnormalities were found before the helicopter crashed.
But the AAIB report did not recommend the suspension of L2 flights.
Mr Allen said: “The industry relies on the experts within the AAIB, the European Aviation Safety Agency and the Civil Aviation Authority.
“They are completely independent and have access to all the relevant data and evidence from the accident. They have the necessary equipment and expertise to reach the right conclusions and impose whatever requirements they feel are necessary to safeguard passengers.”
Mr Allen said the newly-created taskforce made up of industry figures to look at helicopter safety, which meets this week, would also play a part.
But last night, regional organiser of the RMT union Jake Molloy said he was unconvinced inspections of the helicopters, based on the interim report, would restore confidence in the aircraft among offshore workers.
“Close maintenance was carried out on the helicopter for a week before the crash, but it did not prevent the aircraft going down,” he said.
“I feel that some workers will still harbour concerns and will feel that inspections have failed them already, and who’s to say inspections will not fail them again?
“There are still so many unknowns here that we think it is best for the aircraft to be grounded.”
Mr Molloy wants Super Puma flights suspended until the full report from the AAIB is published.
Bond, which operated the ill-fated helicopter, confirmed the company had inspected the fleet and passed it as airworthy.
A spokeswoman for BP said its offshore flights were continuing, but only with operators CHC and Bristow, until a thorough review of Bond’s operations and procedures is completed.
Meanwhile, final preparations are being made for a memorial service tomorrow for the men who died when the helicopter crashed 11 miles off Peterhead while returning them to Aberdeen from BP’s Miller platform.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will be among those present at the service, which will take place at the Kirk of St Nicholas in Aberdeen’s Union Street.
The service, which will begin at 2pm, exactly two weeks after the accident, will be relayed to people outside the church on a screen which will be erected in Union Street.