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LONDON–Two helicopter operators that transport workers to oil rigs in the North Sea have suspended flights using Super Puma aircraft after one was forced to ditch on Monday.
CHC Helicopter and Bond Aviation took the decision after a Eurocopter EC225 Super Puma ditched south west of Shetland, an archipelago that marks the division of the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea.
All 17 passengers and two crew, who had been on their way to Total SA‘s (TOT) West Phoenix rig, were rescued safely.
But the incident has raised fresh fears about the Super Puma, coming as it did just days after the findings of an investigation into a May crash recommended that the manufacturer, Eurocopter, a unit of European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. NV (EAD.FR), review the design of the main gearbox lubrication system. In April 2009 some 16 people died when a Super Puma aircraft belonging to Bond Aviation crashed.
Nick Mair, CHC’s regional vice president, Western North Sea, said: “The right thing to do is hold all scheduled flights using Super Puma/EC225 aircraft pending receipt of further technical information,” adding that the Air Accident Investigation Branch is conducting a full enquiry into the cause of the incident.
In a statement, Bond said it has “taken the decision to delay a return to operations of the AS332L2 and EC225 Super Puma helicopters until more detailed information is available.”
A statement from Step Change in Safety, a group that comprises representatives from industry, regulators and trade unions, said it will meet in the near future to share preliminary information.
– Ben Winkley, (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company
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