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‘Scary stuff’ – union boss reacts to crack found on North Sea helicopter

An Airbus H175 helicopter operated by Babcock 
ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images)
An Airbus H175 helicopter operated by Babcock ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images)

A union boss has described an image of a crack found on an offshore helicopter as “scary stuff” and called for greater transparency for workers.

The large split was detected last week on the horizontal stabiliser of an H175 aircraft operated by Babcock out of Aberdeen.

Flights were “paused” as a precaution, while manufacturer Airbus issued a requirement for inspections and speed restrictions on the helicopters.

RMT regional organiser Jake Molloy said the possibility of the stabiliser detaching “is something you don’t want to contemplate”.

He said: “The crack, the picture itself was pretty scary stuff. If you look at the positioning of that horizontal stabiliser, had it detached, God forbid, and struck the tail rotor – it’s something you don’t want to contemplate.

“I’m unlikely to ever board a helicopter again so I suppose I can count myself as lucky.

“The night the pictures were released of the crack and subsequently Airbus said that they should reduce the speed of the aircraft, there were a lot of questions asked by our members.”

A picture shared on the Pprune pilot’s blog appearing to show the cracked stabliser.

The speed restrictions have since been lifted and operators have returned the aircraft to service, while safety bosses have stated no faults were found on any other H175s in the North Sea fleet.

However, the Civil Aviation Authority said the issue shows manufacturers must ensure they “get it right” when it comes to making sure components are built to last.

Mr Molloy issued a call for a more open process to keep workers appraised of any helicopter issues.

He added: “If the aircraft is designed to fly at a certain speed, why should slowing it down make it safer?

“These are the things being sent to me and things that the industry needs to be completely transparent on.

“We need to be open and honest. Our members have the right to know what’s going on with these aircraft and it should be cascaded out across the industry. Open, honest. The complete picture. What’s gone on, what is being done to prevent it, what justification there is for slowing the aircraft? I find it staggering.

“You might get a presentation on an installation. Somebody sticks up a power point, you get to see it, you get a lecture and told not to worry. Is that enough? Frankly I think it is nowhere near enough.  That’s why we’ve got to deal with this whole issue of commercial pressures.”

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