Helicopter manufacturer Eurocopter appears to be facing a backlash from North Sea oil workers after four people were killed in an AS332L2 Super Puma accident on Friday. Although the cause of the accident has not been established yet, unions and workers were quick to react to the fifth Super Puma accident or major incident in four years in the UK offshore industry.
“A CHC Helicopter [Eurocopter] Super Puma [AS332] L2 aircraft landed in the water Friday, August 23, about two nautical miles west of Sumburgh, on Shetland Island in the U.K.” CHC Helicopter said in statement issued yesterday.
Making its Paris debut in the static display is a Swiss air force Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma that has undergone the TH06 ISR upgrade by Ruag Aviation (Chalet A118, Static R). The Swiss company has designed and installed a major avionics overhaul that allows the Super Puma fleet to continue to provide service for many years to come.
Two German police-operated helicopters returning from a training mission collided near the ground in Berlin while landing on March 21. Both were Eurocopter models, one an AS332L1 Super Puma and the other an EC155B1. The pilot of the Super Puma lost ground reference in blowing snow and struck the smaller helicopter, killing the pilot of the EC155. Seven people on the ground were also injured–four seriously–mostly by flying debris. The two helicopters were participating in a police exercise being held near Berlin’s downtown Olympic Stadium.
Vector Aerospace Financial Services Ireland (VFS) is offering the medium- to heavy-lift market a fleet of customized Super Puma AS332Ls, including leasing and by-the-hour support. The offer is targeting the UN, NATO and EU markets. VFS was formed last year by Vector Aerospace, a provider of helicopter maintenance, repair and overhaul services, to provide combined lease and support solutions.
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.”
Under the codename X6, Eurocopter is reported to be about to launch a new helicopter line that will supersede the AS332/EC225 Super Puma medium-twin series, according to French financial publication Sud Infos. The Marignane, France-based manufacturer reportedly aims to have the new helicopter in service by 2020. The first AS332 Super Puma was delivered in 1981.
Offshore operator Bristow “entered into an agreement” yesterday to order 10 Sikorsky S-92 medium-twin helicopters and secured options for another 16. The move emerges as the operator is keeping 16 Eurocopter Super Pumas on the ground, following two controlled ditchings that affected the EC225 type in just six months. Both ditchings were caused by a failure of the main gearbox.
The busy North Sea oil and gas rig transportation sector lost nearly a third of its capacity on October 23, after CHC Helicopter suspended all flight operations using the Eurocopter EC 225. The ban, pending further investigation, came after a company Super Puma ditched in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland the day before. CHC competitors Bond and Bristow also grounded their Super Pumas after the incident.
The aircraft suffered a cracked gearbox shaft, according to the UK’s Air Accident Investigation Branch.
The UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) published a further “special bulletin” late last week in its investigation into the controlled ditching of a Bond-operated EC225 medium twin in May in the North Sea, confirming an earlier hint by Eurocopter that the emergency lubrication system gave the pilots a false failure warning.