The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the Norwegian authorities have allowed flights to resume if operators meet new safety conditions.
A crash involving the helicopter off the coast of Norway killed 13 people, including Iain Stewart from Aberdeenshire, in April 2016.
The Unite Union has expressed concern about the decision.
CAA head of airworthiness John McColl said: “This is not a decision we have taken lightly. It has only been made after receiving extensive information from the Norwegian accident investigators and being satisfied with the subsequent changes introduced by Airbus Helicopters through detailed assessment and analysis.
“The safety of those who travel on offshore helicopter flights is a key priority for both the UK and Norwegian aviation authorities.
“We would not have made this decision unless we were convinced that the changes to the helicopters and their maintenance restore the required airworthiness standards.”
The CAA said that helicopters would not begin flying immediately. A plan of checks, modifications and inspections will be undertaken before any flights take place.
- Change in the design by removal of the components that were susceptible to premature deterioration
- Earlier replacement of component
- Design change to introduce an improved maintenance inspection method to detect any deterioration at an early stage
- More frequent inspections
- Reduction in the thresholds for rejecting components based upon early signs of any deterioration
Mr McColl added: “We continue to work with the helicopter operators, the offshore industries, international regulators, unions and pilot representatives to enhance offshore safety standards still further and all these parties are actively involved in ongoing discussions.”
The Unite Union has expressed concern at the decision, saying its members were “very nervous” about flying in the helicopter.
The union’s regional organiser in Aberdeen, Tommy Campbell, said Unite was still waiting to see a full analysis of the April 2016 accident and its causes.
“The offshore work force have been surveyed, they’ve been surveyed by the unions, they’ve been surveyed by magazines in the industry and there is a lack of confidence,” he told the BBC.
“There’s a significant issue and it’s very understandable. Offshore workers – or any workers – want to go to their work and come back home safely and there’s been far, far too many deaths now as a result of helicopter accidents.”
Les Linklater, executive director of the offshore industry safety group, Step Change in Safety, said: “At this time, there is an ongoing Airbus survey for pilots and passengers regarding these specific helicopters’ flight safety and comfort, which was issued just one week ago. It’s our understanding that this survey still has a further three weeks to run.
“Given the importance of the workforce’s opinion regarding this highly emotive subject, we do not feel it’s appropriate to make any further comment until Airbus has gathered, and shared, the survey’s results and can demonstrate how they intend to address any concerns raised by the workforce.
“We would encourage all members of the workforce to participate and have their voices heard.”
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Unite raises serious safety concerns after ban on Airbus Superpuma is lifted
Scotland’s biggest union, Unite, has set up a petition to stop all commercial flights of the Superpuma H225LP and AS332 L2 helicopters in order to provide reassurance to offshore workers that their safety is paramount. This comes after the CAA announced plans to lift the ban last month.
Unite and other offshore unions continue to demand the highest possible safety regulations and training when it comes to helicopter journeys involving offshore workers and this decision jeopardises this.
Unite regional officer, Tommy Campbell said: “Our members are telling us that they have no confidence in the safety of these airframes and neither do their families. Offshore workers deserve to return back home safe to loved ones from working in the North Sea.
“We need not only the usual assurances from the Oil and Gas UK operators, we need them to demonstrate that safety comes first and that they will not support the reintroduction of the Superpuma H225LP and AS332 L2 helicopters.
“Until a full investigation is complete and the results are known there should be no ‘Business as Usual’ return to commercial operations in the UKCS involving these airframes.”
Transporting offshore workers to and from oil and gas installations should be a safe and routine practice. However, Unite is claiming that a significant number of offshore workers and union members have expressed the view that the root cause of the gearbox problem that caused the crash in April 2016 remains unknown and as long as it does they demand the airframes should remain grounded.
Unite will continue to work with all stakeholders in the UKCS who have a responsibility for health and safety in the Oil and Gas sector to ensure the highest safety standards are upheld and that commercial pressure and profit will not come before workers’ safety.
For further information contact: Tommy Campbell 07810157920
Sign the petition and share
- Unite recently launched a Back Home Safe 2017 petition which calls for a halt to the reintroduction of the Airbus Superpuma model into service and the permanent cessation of commercial operations in the UKCS until the root cause of the gearbox problem is found and a full investigation is complete. In just over a week the petition has received around 1,500 signatures.
- Unite recently welcomed the introduction of the H175 Helicopter model as an alternative to the Superpuma, into commercial operations in the UKCS by helicopter operators including CHC. Unite claim this will offer some reassurance to members who make the journey to and from offshore oil and gas installations.
- Back Home Safe Petition 2017 – “Do Not reintroduce the Airbus H225s and AS332s and L2s airframes in commercial operations in the UKCS” petition
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