￼30 August 2013, News Wires – Super Puma helicopters are again set to take to the skies off the UK after an industry group on Friday formally recommended an end to a suspension of flights amid an ongoing probe into a fatal crash off Scotland last week.
However, the L2 model involved in the accident will only be used for non-passenger carrying flights such as for training and maintenance.
The Step Change in Safety’s Helicopter Safety Steering Group, HSSG, recommended the temporary suspension of the other models AS332 L/L1, AS332 and EC225 to now be lifted, enabling them to resume passenger flights to offshore oil and gas installations.
Step Change team leader Les Linklater said, after a five-day review to examine the airworthiness and operational safety of the helicopter fleet, “the result is that there is no evidence to support a continuation of the temporary suspension of the entire Super Puma fleet”.
He added that helicopter operators were now satisfied “there is no reason to believe there is an inherent mechanical problem” with any of the Super Puma models, while aviation authorities had not issued any directives that would support the suspension.
The decision was based on confidence in the helicopters being expressed by authorities and pilots’ union BALPA, he said after the Friday meeting of HSSG, made up of oil and gas operators, contractors, trade unions and regulators.
Flights of all Super Pumas, including the L2, have now been given the green light off Norway after an emergency meeting on Wednesday of the country’s Helicopter Co-operation Forum comprising the country’s aviation authority, safety agency, Statoil and unions.
Canada’s CHC Helicopter had said earlier Thursday it had restarted service for the L2 aicraft but continued to keep the models grounded in the UK, though some non-passenger flights were reportedly being conducted.
Four oil workers died while 12 other workers and two crew members survived after a Super Puma L2 crashed into the sea off Sumburgh on Friday evening.
A cross-industry meeting on Wednesday had failed to yield a concensus on how best to proceed.
Reacting to the HSSG’s decision, Oil & Gas UK chief executive Malcolm Webb said: Oil & Gas UK’s chief executive, Malcolm Webb, said: “Oil & Gas UK is in complete alignment with this agreement, including the decision to return the aircraft in question to flight in a phased and proper manner and to engage with the management and workforce to rebuild trust and confidence.
“In that regard, I wish to make it absolutely clear that, as a result of these arrangements, no-one unwilling to fly will be forced to do so.
“Oil & Gas UK also notes the request of HSSG to set up an independent review of helicopter operations, with terms of reference to be agreed with stakeholders. This we will do.”