A North Sea helicopter operator is preparing to send controversial offshore choppers back to the leasing company.
Super Puma EC225s have been banned from flying in the UK since a fatal crash off Norway last year, that killed 13 people including Iain Stuart from Laurencekirk.
But in a move that caught industry by surprise, aviation watchdogs paved a way to a possible return by lifting flight restrictions earlier this month, with certain safety caveats.
The was met with anger and frustration from workforce representatives who claim that offshore workers have made their feelings towards the aircraft.
Unions want a public inquiry into a string of North Sea accidents involving the Airbus manufactured Super Pumas.
They claim to be getting by using alternative helicopters.
Several supermajors including Royal Dutch Shell have also ruled out using the helicopters again in UK operations.
Others companies such as BP are waiting until a root cause of the Norway accident is identified and public confidence restored.
Bristow and fellow chopper operator Babcock have not ruled using the Super Pumas again in the future.
A return to service is subject to a testing regime and a safety case.
CHC Helicopters said that the firm did not have any Super Pumas in its UK fleet.
Two of Bristow’s Super Pumas were rolled out onto the tarmac at Aberdeen Airport yesterday after a lengthy mothballing.
However rather than signalling their return, Bristow said it is preparing to send them back to the owners.
It is unclear if the move is connected to recent developments or if the leases were due up. Bristow has been asked to provide clarification.
A spokesperson for Bristow said: “Bristow can confirm that it is preparing two of its UK registered EC225 aircraft for their planned return to the leasing company. Bristow will also return two of its Australian-registered aircraft later this fiscal year.
“Bristow engineers are currently carrying out redelivery work at the Aberdeen base to bring the two UK aircraft, which have been in storage, back to full serviceability as per the lease redelivery requirements.
“Bristow continues to suspend all operation of its EC225s until the company is confident that the aircraft can operate safely.”
Unite regional industrial officer Tommy Campbell reiterated their support for any members of the workforce who refused to fly in a Super Puma.
He said: “We will support the offshore workforce in their refusal to get aboard the super pumas.
“It’s so disappointing that the decision to lift the ban on the super pumas has been made without knowing the root cause of the accident in Norway last year.
“The workforce are stressed enough with working in a dangerous and hostile environment without the added upset and stress of knowing that the helicopters that have caused the deaths of so many offshore workers are being returned to the UK and Norwegian oil and gas sectors.”
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