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Super Puma helicopter flights resume

Source BBC News@ tienganhvui.com


Helicopter engineOne of the engines from the crashed Super Puma helicopter was brought ashore late on Thursday


A meeting of industry representatives has recommended that Super Puma helicopters should be cleared to fly.


All offshore flights by the Super Puma had been suspended following the crash off Shetland last week which killed four oil workers.


The Helicopter Safety Steering Group (HSSG) said a campaign would be started to engage with the offshore workforce.


Earlier the missing flight data recorder the crashed helicopter was recovered.


Les Linklater of HSSG said: "Four people tragically lost their lives on Friday. However there are almost 16,000 people offshore currently, with over 12,000 in the most affected areas (central and northern North Sea).


"Today, there are over 250 people who have spent more than 21 days offshore, this is increasing daily and they and their families are wondering when they are going to get home.


"We have a duty of care to all offshore workers both in terms of their safety and their well-being; we must consider the cumulative risk of the 'time out'. We must avoid a further tragedy through the introduction of human factor-based risk such as fatigue, stress and other well-being concerns that increase the likelihood of a high consequence - low frequency event."


He added: "The individual helicopter operating companies will now work with their customers, to ensure the correct information and confidence-building communication is available, sensitive to the individual needs of the offshore workforce, before returning to full commercial passenger service."


The L2 model of Super Puma, the type involved in the Shetland crash, will be initially re-introduced for "non-passenger revenue operations only".


This means non-passenger carrying maintenance, positioning and training flights.


Grounding

Concerns about the return to service of the Super Puma have been expressed by trade union representatives.




The wreckage was brought ashore in Lerwick and loaded onto a lorry



Unite Scottish Secretary Pat Rafferty said: "The continued grounding of the L2 fleet - the same type involved in last Friday's crash resulting in four fatalities and also in the April 2009 crash with sixteen fatalities - is the bare minimum that the industry can do until the recovered black box's data fully establishes why this tragedy occurred."


The union is seeking assurances that workers will not be forced to fly in helicopters when they have serious concerns about safety.


Mr Rafferty added: "Confidence has been shattered and the industry needs to provide substantive evidence - not opinion - to its workers demonstrating the airworthiness of the helicopters that are now returning to operations.


"At the same time, Unite is demanding guarantees from employers that workers who feel unable to fly will not be subject to pressure or the threat of dismissal. The industry cannot merely expect the workforce to simply get their boots on and get back to work.


"A phased return of operations must now take place to clear the backlog of workers offshore waiting to get home to their families and those who want to get back to work and earn their keep - but the safety of the workforce must remain paramount throughout this process."


Black box

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said the combined voice and flight data recorder from the crashed helicopter, known as the "black box", would be taken to its Farnborough headquarters for analysis.


The AAIB said the Super Puma had appeared to show a "reduction in airspeed accompanied by an increased rate of descent".


The AAIB said it appeared the helicopter had been intact and upright when it entered the water.


However, it was too early to identify a cause of the crash.



The AAIB update reported: "Preliminary information indicates that the approach proceeded normally until approximately three miles from the runway when there was a reduction in airspeed accompanied by an increased rate of descent.


"The helicopter struck the sea approximately two miles west of the runway threshold.


"The evidence currently available suggests that the helicopter was intact and upright when it entered the water.


"It then rapidly inverted and drifted northwards. The helicopter was largely broken up by repeated contact with the rocky shoreline.


"The investigation is ongoing and at this early stage it is not possible to identify the causal factors leading to the accident."


Heavy swell

Much of the wreckage of the Super Puma has been brought ashore.


Sarah DarnleyA new photo of Sarah Darnley, one of the victims, has been issued


Key parts arrived at Lerwick at 04:30 on the support vessel Bibby Polaris.


Divers had known the rough location of the flight data recorder, but heavy swell hampered efforts to retrieve it.


Marine engineering company Ocean Kinetics, which is carrying out the recovery operation, had already recovered the helicopter's gearbox and rotor head.


Four people died when the Super Puma AS332 L2 went down close to shore on a flight to Shetland's Sumburgh Airport from the Borgsten Dolphin rig.


They were Duncan Munro, 46, from Bishop Auckland, Sarah Darnley, 45, from Elgin, Gary McCrossan, 59, from Inverness, and George Allison, 57, from Winchester.


The crash was the fifth incident involving Super Pumas in the North Sea since 2009.


Aberdeen North MP Frank Doran has called for a public inquiry.


The Super Puma is said to make up about half of the UK offshore industry's 75-strong helicopter fleet.





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