Eurocopter is now anticipating that a solution to the main gearbox problem that has grounded the North Sea fleet of EC225s will be available in April. According to Eurocopter CEO Lutz Bertling, the solution will at least be a “safety barrier.”
While engineers have found the root cause and a fix for the false alarm problem with the helicopter’s emergency lubrication system, shaft cracks are proving harder to resolve. Despite extensive bench- and flight-testing, “We have not been able to reproduce the failure so far,” Bertling acknowledged. Any “safety barrier” will likely build on a measure already in place: regular monitoring of certain HUMS parameters, such as vibration. Under the “safety barrier” principle, “If you see no ‘abnormal,’ you are safe for the next so many hours,” said Bertling.
While conceding that the main gearbox issue is having the most severe impact ever on customers, he noted that the problem affects only 13 percent of the Super Puma fleet. Despite the measures already in place, Norwegian and UK authorities continue to prohibit flights over water in the EC225.