The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) recovered the cockpit voice/flight data recorder today from the Eurocopter Super Puma that ditched last Friday, killing four. According to preliminary information from investigators, it appears that “the approach [to Sumburgh airport] proceeded normally until approximately 3 nm from the runway, when there was a reduction in airspeed accompanied by an increased rate of descent.” Evidence suggests the helicopter was intact and upright when it entered the water, before rapidly inverting and drifting to a rocky shoreline, where it was largely broken up.
Meanwhile, the British Air Line Pilots Association (Balpa) pilot union reacted to the outcries earlier this week against the Super Pumas. The recent suspension of operations was “an understandable response,” but the confidence of Balpa members in the Super Puma series remains unchanged, the union stated. “We should not rush to judge an aircraft that has three very different variants and has successfully transported millions of passengers worldwide in safety over 30 years,” it said.
Accident statistics are scarce for UK offshore helicopter operations–the Step Change in Safety organization estimates that eight fatal accidents took place in UK offshore operations from 1992 to 2009, with three of them involving Super Pumas.