The Sidney-based parent firm of the helicopter company that recently lost a Sikorsky S-92A chopper and its crew confirmed this week that defective gearbox studs had not been replaced.
Cougar Helicopters is a subsidiary of Vancouver Island Helicopter Aviation Group, based at Victoria International Airport. On March 12th, one of Cougar’s choppers carrying oil rig workers crashed off St. John’s. Seventeen of the 18 aboard were killed including former Victoria resident Tim Lanouette, first officer on the flight.
Last week, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada found two broken studs on a main gearbox assembly in the wreckage of the downed helicopter. The helicopter’s manufacturer had issued a bulletin in January advising all titanium studs in gearboxes of the Sikorskys to be replaced with steel studs.
But that maintenance hadn’t been done on the helicopter that crashed, VIH spokesperson Christian Kittleson confirmed this week. Sikorsky had advised the studs to be replaced within one year or 1,250 flight hours, Kittleson said. The Sikorsky that Lanouette was flying on had flown 177 hours since the alert had been issued two months ago.
TSB of Canada said, since the discovery of the broken gearbox last week, more than half of the Sikorsky S-92As worldwide have had the defective studs replaced.
VIH does not use that model at its Pat Bay operation.
It has been a tough week for the aviation group’s staff, Kittleson said. Last Friday, Cougar Helicopters shut down for a day of mourning.
“Obviously this has been a significant issue for us. It’s been very difficult and we’re moving through it,” he said.