A fatal crash of a new Helitrans operated Airbus Helicopters AS350B3e in Norway on August 31 that killed all six aboard has prompted emergency directives from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the manufacturer for one-time inspections of that and similar Airbus models.
Yesterday, EASA issued Emergency Airworthiness Directive (EAD) 2109-0225-E, effective tomorrow, mandating the immediate inspection of main gearbox (MGB) driveshafts, fittings, and couplings for all recently delivered (total time less than 300 hours) Airbus AS350B3 (H125) and EC130T2 (H130) helicopters. The EAD was published as Airbus issued its own emergency alert Service Bulletin that calls for visual inspection of the driveshaft links between the engine and the MGB, specifically a check of the flexible coupling between the shaft and the MGB (six bolts, nuts, and safety pins) and the coupling between the shaft and the engine (six bolts, nuts, and safety pins).
Any observed anomalies should be reported to Airbus Helicopters for corrective action before further flight. The EAD was issued by EASA following preliminary wreckage observations by the Accident Investigation Board of Norway (AIBN).
In a carefully-worded statement issued yesterday, the AIBN said it has “not concluded whether, or not, failure of the connection between the engine and the main gearbox is a causal factor. In order to obtain a complete understanding of the accident, the AIBN needs to hold together all information from the examined components, possible data from the storage unit, accident site observations, witness observations, and testimonies from all parties involved in manufacture, maintenance, and operations of the helicopter. The memory chip from the helicopter’s data storage unit is still being examined. The memory chip had severe heath damage, even beyond the first impression.”
The accident helicopter, s/n 8721, registration LN-FOU, was delivered to Helitrans on June 4 and had accumulated approximately 73 hours total time. The AIBN said that other than visual inspections, Helitrans had not performed any maintenance on the components covered under the EAD. The helicopter crashed while giving a sightseeing flight during the Hostsprell music festival in Skoddevarre, near Alta Finnmark. The pilot and five passengers were killed. Immediately following the crash, Helitrans stood down flight operations and inspected all 15 of its AS350 and EC130 helicopters in accordance with the EAD and found no anomalies. Those aircraft have all been returned to active service, the company said this morning.