Third helicopter incident in a week


Fresh concerns have been raised over the use of helicopters flying to North Sea oil installations after it emerged another Super Puma helicopter was involved in an incident yesterday — just a week after 16 men died as their aircraft plunged into the North Sea.

It is believed pieces of metal were seen coming out of the exhaust of the helicopter in yesterday’s incident.

The aircraft landed on Total’s North Alwyn platform, and an engineer was instructed to investigate the problem before it was cleared to fly back home.

It is understood the helicopter, which was carrying two crew and 18 passengers, experienced difficulties with its exhaust flow system.

The CHC EC225 Scotia-operated helicopter — the same model as a helicopter forced to make a “precautionary landing” 240km east of Aberdeen on Monday — was on a scheduled crew change flight when it touched down shortly before 9am.

In Monday’s incident, a CHC Super Puma helicopter landed safely on the Safe Caledonia after reporting a fuel problem on its way to Aberdeen from the Sedco 714 rig. It was assessed then flown back to Aberdeen.

A CHC Scotia spokesman said yesterday’s exhaust fault did not compromise the safety of the aircraft.

However, Jake Molloy, from the offshore arm of the RMT union, said: “This is another incident with a Super Puma which will understandably cause concern.

“The crew scheduled to fly back on the aircraft will be worried. Unfortunately, this is also going to cause anxiety to families back home when they hear about this.”

A spokesman for the helicopter company said yesterday: “CHC can confirm that an EC225 aircraft shut down this morning on board Total’s North Alwyn platform.

“A fault was reported in relation to a non-critical component within the exhaust flow system which did not compromise the safety of the aircraft. The fault became apparent after the aircraft landed.

“As a standard precautionary measure, an engineer will carry out an inspection prior to the aircraft being returned to service.”

He said the exhaust problem became apparent when it landed at around 8:50am yesterday.

Jim Ferguson, an aviation writer, said: “This would appear to be an unusual occurrence, bits don’t tend to fall off helicopters.

“Obviously, everyone in the UK sector is very concerned about anything which involves a helicopter and this is quite understandable.”

Yesterday oil giant BP launched an investigation into the safety record of Bond Offshore Helicopters following last week’s tragedy and said it would no longer use the firm’s aircraft until the outcome of its own inquiry into Bond’s operations was complete.

BP has taken this action despite the fact that an investigation by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch is under way.

Meanwhile, it was also announced yesterday that Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, will attend the memorial service in honour of the 16 men who died in the North Sea helicopter crash.

They will join hundreds of people on Wednesday in the Kirk of St Nicholas in Aberdeen.

A minute’s silence is to be held before Aberdeen’s SPL match tomorrow at Pittodrie against Inverness.

Police yesterday released a picture of Mihails Zuravskis, 39, from Latvia who died in last week’s North Sea helicopter crash.


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