Cougar Sues Sikorsky Over Fatal S-92 Crash

 - September 30, 2010, 6:58 AM

On the eve of a Canadian Government report on the fatal March 2009 crash off Newfoundland that killed 17 of 18 aboard a Sikorsky S-92A, operator Cougar Helicopters and its insurers filed a $26.6 million suit against the OEM. Cougar is charging Sikorsky with “fraudulent misrepresentation, reckless behavior and willful misconduct” relating to the performance of the helicopter’s main gearbox (MGB) and its ability to function without lubricating oil for 30 minutes. Cougar is also suing the federal minister of transport and Sikorsky’s Helicopter Support repair subsidiary.

Cougar Flight 491 crashed into the Atlantic 11 minutes after pilots reported falling MGB oil pressure, and examination of the wreckage revealed that two of the three titanium studs that secure the oil filter bowl assembly to the helicopter’s main gearbox had failed. Sikorsky subsequently made changes to the MGB, including replacing the titanium studs with ones made from steel.  

Cougar filed a statement of claim with the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador. Sikorsky’s lawyers moved quickly to quash the suit on jurisdictional grounds, and a hearing will be held to consider that motion next month.

The 30-minute run-dry claim is at the heart of the suit. Since landfall was within 30 minutes’ flying time, Cougar maintains that its pilots acted properly when they turned the helicopter around, rather than ditching immediately, after the low-pressure warning alerted. Cougar’s claim asserts, “By promoting and advertising the S-92 as having a ‘30-minute run-dry capacity,’ Sikorsky fraudulently misrepresented to buyers and operators the airworthiness and flight safety of the S-92” and thus showed “callous disregard for the risk of death or injury to crews and passengers.”

Sikorsky declined to comment, but earlier this year it reached an undisclosed settlement with the lone crash survivor and the families of the deceased.