THE grounding of two models of Super Puma affects just over half the fleets of leading North Sea helicopter firms.
But offshore oil and gas production could still continue.
Fewer helicopters in service, however, means long delays for workers waiting to fly offshore or those returning to land.The three main helicopter operators in the North Sea are Bristow, CHC and Bond. Between them, they have 48 aircraft – 41 of them Super Pumas. Twenty-five of them are the models subject to the new checks – AS332 L2s and EC225s.
That leaves only 16 Super Pumas AS332 Ls and seven other helicopters still flying. Jake Molloy, regional organiser of the RMT union, said: “Losing 50% of the fleet for whatever period of time would have an impact, though the scale of this would be difficult to assess. The oil companies could lessen the impact by cutting back on certain offshore operations to accommodate this grounding.”
Mr Molloy also said offshore workers were likely to face delays with flights.
He said it would be possible to move offshore workers by ship, but he felt this was a non-starter as it would leave people open to “incredible” risks in transferring them from a moving vessels to installations in rough seas.