Initial North Sea Ditch Investigation IDs Faulty Gear Box

CHC Helicopters operates a fleet of 28 Eurocopter EC225’s, pictured here, in Brazil, Malaysia, Nigeria, Norway and UK. Photo: CHC Helicopters

An initial investigation into a helicopter crash in the North Sea earlier this week has found indications that the aircraft’s main gearbox lubrication system failed.

In a preliminary report, the Air Accident Investigation Branch said the crew of the Eurocopter EC225 LP Super Puma had to ditch into the North Sea after a subsequent warning indicating failure of the emergency lubrication system.

A report published last week by the AAIB into a crash in May this year, also involving a Super Puma, recommended that Eurocopter, a unit of European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. NV (EAD.FR), review the design of the main gearbox emergency lubrication system.

In Monday’s incident the aircraft, operated by CHC Helicopter, was on its way from Aberdeen to the West Phoenix drilling rig when it ditched around 50 kilometers south of Shetland. All on board were rescued safely.

Immediately after the accident–the fourth involving a Super Puma in the North Sea area in four years–one-third of the helicopter fleet that transports oil workers to offshore North Sea fields has been removed from service. Operators CHC, Bond and Bristow also grounded their Super Puma fleets operating in Norway.

“The safety of our workforce is paramount and we need to be satisfied that those who travel to their place of work by helicopter, do so safely and return home again safely,” the Helicopter Safety Steering Group, a collective of flight operators, oil and gas operators, unions and safety regulators, said in a statement.

A detailed engineering investigation of the CHC aircraft is continuing with the assistance of the manufacturer and operator, AAIB said in a statement.

Download Report: S6-2012 G-CHCN.pdf

-By Ben Winkley. Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones Newswires