Unions slam CAA move to revoke Super Puma flight ban
The Norwegian oil workers union is disappointed by the UK and Norwegian Civil Aviation Authorities’ decision to revoke the flight ban for Super Puma helicopters.
The Airbus H225LP and AS332L2 type helicopters, popularly known as Super Puma, have been banned from flying since the 2016 fatal helicopter crash near Turoy, Norway.
The CHC-operated Super Puma helicopter had been on its way back to land from Statoil’s Gullfaks B platform when its rotor came off leading to the crash on the small Turoy island near Bergen. Thirteen people aboard died.
A little more than a year later, the Super Pumas might return to the sky again after both the UK and the Norwegian authorities said they would lift the ban.
Industri Energi, representing over 60.000 oil workers, has slammed the decision over the fact that the root cause of the Turoy accident has not yet been found.
“We are very disappointed that the civil aviation authorities decided to suspend the no-fly when the root cause Turøy accident has not yet been found. As long as one does not know the underlying reason why one of the planetary gears in the helicopter’s gearbox broke and the error has been corrected, the helicopters should not be used again on the Norwegian continental shelf,“ says helicopter expert Henrik S. Fjeldsbø of Industri Energi.
Fjeldsbø had hoped that the CAA would have waited with the decision until after the final report by the Accident Investigation Board of Norway(AIBN) was made, and when one was certain why the accident happened.
He said: “We can not afford to put these Super Puma helicopters in operation again until we are completely confident that a similar accident won’t happen again.”
The Industri Energi representative also criticized the „novel“ timing of the CAA announcement late on Friday night, ahead of summer holidays.
Late on Friday
He felt it was an intentional move to avoid attention by the people and the media, also expressing concern that the union, as a representative of the passengers, wasn’t informed in advance.
Despite the expected lift of the ban Fjeldsbø doesn’t expect the Super Pumas to fly in Norway right of the bat since it will take time to prepare the equipment that has stood still for over a year, and because of a series of tests and modifications that need to be made on the helicopters.
He said that as far as Industri Energi is aware, no oil company on the Norwegian Shelf is willing to take the helicopter type in question back to action.
Fjeldsbø emphasised that Industry Energi will not accept the type of helicopter as long as the root cause of the Turoy accident is not found.
Roy Erling Furre, a HSE manager in Safe, another oil workers’ union in Norway, says that CAA has called a meeting for July 14, the day the flight ban is expected to be lifted.
He thinks the CAA does not feel any input from other parties to be significant as the meeting comes after the flight lift ban has been lifted.
Furre said the union was working to get the companies to understand that they should find other, safer partners among helicopter producers.
“Confidence in both Airbus and Super Puma is gone. The companies have said they will not use Super Puma. We are happy and we hope there will be no change to this position.“
No practical significance
According to Safe, ConocoPhillips and Statoil have no plans to return to using the Super Pumas in their operations.
A ConocoPhillips spokesperson reportedly said that while the company was taking note of the Civil Aviation Authorities’ decision, the decision “has no practical significance for our operations in Norway.”
Back in December 2016, Statoil said it had no plans to use „this helicopter ever again, even if Norwegian Authorities decide to lift the ban.“
This stance has been confirmed this week by Statoil’s spokesperson to Offshore Energy Today.
In an email sent to Offshore Energy Today, the Statoil spokesperson said: “Statoil has no contracts involving the use of EC225 and AS332 L2, nor have we plans to use the helicopter types.”
Offshore Energy Today also reached out to Chevron, seeking a comment.
A Chevron spokesperson said: “Our helicopter provider in the North Sea is NHV, they don’t fly the Super Puma and we have no plans to change.”
HeliOffshore seeking more data
HeliOffshore, offshore helicopter industry’s global safety association on Wednesday said it was working with UK and Norwegian authorities to release the technical data used to justify their decision on July 7 to lift operating restrictions on Airbus Helicopters H225LP and AS332L2 Super Puma helicopters.
The offshore helicopter industry’s global safety association says that without having all available data its members cannot determine whether or not a sound safety case can be made for returning the aircraft to service.
Technical experts from HeliOffshore will seek access to all available data including that used by Airbus to support changes to the process for inspecting and replacing main rotor components, the association said.
As the UK and Norwegian authorities have acknowledged, the lifting of operating restrictions does not automatically clear the way to an immediate return to service for the Super Puma fleet. Operators first have to prepare and validate a detailed safety case, including specific maintenance processes, tooling and training.
“Our operators have to take account of the overall safety case including factors such as exactly how each aircraft is operated, where it will be flown, and maintenance requirements,” explained HeliOffshore CEO Gretchen Haskins.
“There is a clear consensus among HeliOffshore operators that sharing information and working collectively to evaluate the key tenants of the safety case is will be the most effective way to fulfil our obligations to the safety of our passengers and crew. Any preparations for a possible return to service for the Super Pumas must be conducted in an extremely methodical manner, in line with our shared commitment to the highest standards of operational safety.”
“HeliOffshore is continuing to engage with all stakeholders to ensure that the most up-to-date information is available from a safety perspective to ensure they can make the appropriate safety decisions subject to their operational accountability requirements.”
European Aviation Safety Agency, EASA, has welcomed the lifting of the ban: “We welcome the intention of the UK and Norway Civil Aviation Authorities to remove the restrictions that prevent operators to use the Airbus Helicopters H225LP and AS332L2 models in the UK and Norway. This move comes after a decision by EASA to approve additional design changes and modifications made by Airbus Helicopters to the aircraft type and its maintenance, as we are learning from the ongoing investigation conducted by the Accident Investigation Board of Norway (AIBN).
Patrick Ky, EASA’s Executive Director said: “Our mission and priority is safety. “We have taken all the measures and decisions to protect the safety of Oil and Gas personnel. EASA will continue to provide full support to the AIBN investigation and to work closely with Airbus Helicopters as the investigation progresses.”
Offshore Energy Today Staff