MP criticises ‘piecemeal’ approach to copter safety

Wreckage of the helicopter after the August crash which killed four people is buffeted by the surf off the Shetland mainland
Wreckage of the helicopter after the August crash which killed four people is buffeted by the surf off the Shetland mainland

An MP has criticised plans to hold five separate inquiries into North Sea helicopter safety as a “piecemeal” approach that will “do nothing” to allay offshore workers’ concerns.

Frank Doran stepped up his calls for the UK Government to order a judge-led public inquiry into the five helicopter incidents which have happened in the last four years.

It follows the refusal of former UK Transport Minister Simon Burns to discuss his demand until the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has completed its investigation next year.

Prime Minister David Cameron delivered a similar response last month when The Press and Journal asked him if he would order an independent inquiry.

Last night Mr Doran vowed to “keep up the pressure” on the coalition government after receiving a letter of response from Mr Burns, who quit his post last week. The Labour MP for Aberdeen North said: “At the moment we’re looking at at least three separate inquiries, the Civil Aviation Authority, the fatal accident inquiry, and the separate inquiry ordered by the offshore oil and gas industry.

“Then you’ve got the transport committee.

“This is not the way to deal with the serious problems we have in offshore transport and it will do nothing to allay the concerns of workers who have to travel by helicopter on a daily basis to their work.

“It’s piecemeal. Somebody needs to join up all of the dots. We have a serious problem and it needs to be addressed seriously.

“The regulator, the CAA, is an organisation that needs to be examined. It can’t do it itself. We need a totally independent inquiry led by a judge.”

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch is also investigating the most recent crash off Shetland in August which killed four workers, taking the total number of inquiries to five.

In his letter, Mr Burns said: “Since my last time of writing, the CAA has agreed to undertake a thorough review of North Sea helicopter operations along the lines that you have suggested.”

He added: “As you will appreciate, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further whilst this review and the ongoing AAIB investigation continue.”

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