Helicopter tragedy death rate ‘small’, says aviation expert

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A leading aviation expert has claimed that the death rate from helicopter crashes in the North Sea is “small”.

Elfan ap Rees said yesterday that the tragic deaths of four offshore workers on Friday must be put into perspective.

The experienced pilot is a founder of Helicopter International magazine and the world’s largest helicopter museum, in Weston-super-Mare.

He is a former president of the FAI Rotorcraft Commission and vice-president of the Helicopter Club of Great Britain.

Mr ap Rees made the comments despite anger and alarm among offshore workers as the industry comes to terms with the fourth serious Super Puma incident in the North Sea since 2009.

Speaking on the radio yesterday, Mr ap Rees said: “The fatality rate itself is really rather small.

“We need to bear in mind that there is something like 125,000 flights every year in the North Sea by helicopters. One million passengers are being flown by helicopters every year in the North Sea.

“I absolutely accept that this is a tragedy for those people involved in this accident. Nevertheless, it needs to be put in perspective.”

Asked about possible cause of the latest incident, he said: “I think it’s really too early to start supposing this or supposing that. We need the accident investigation people to do their work on this particular incident.

“It may be something very straightforward, it might not be.”

He also described the likely investigation process.

“Clearly, they will, if they haven’t already, be interviewing the pilots, and that may give them an immediate lead,” he said.

“Beyond that, obviously they will be examining the wreckage, recovering the black box, which will tell them how the mechanicals in the helicopter were working, and any other information that they need.”