New coastguard helicopter saftey checks ordered by manufacturer

One of the coastguard rescue helicopters transferring a patient to hospital on Saturday. Click on image to enlarge.
One of the coastguard rescue helicopters transferring a patient to hospital on Saturday. Click on image to enlarge.

Coastguard search and rescue S-92 helicopters will continue to fly over Shetland despite renewed concerns about safety, again over gearboxes.

Canadian manufacturer Sikorsky has ordered urgent inspections on the gearbox feet after cracks were discovered in some aircraft.

Earlier this year the entire S-92 fleet was grounded after a crash off Newfoundland in which 17 people died. Investigations suggested that a failed gearbox mounting stud was responsible.

The Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) has two S-92s stationed at Sumburgh – with another two based at Stornoway – for rescue operations.

However a coastguard spokesman said there was no reason for the aircraft to be grounded this time around. He said regular inspections were being made after every 10 flying hours.

“It won’t have any impact on us because there is a daily inspection regime. There are regular maintenance checks all the time by engineers,” he said.

The coastguard agency will continue to take advice from Sikorsky, and will be open to any measures to improve safety and reliability.

S-92s are also flown by Bristow Helicopters, which operates a fleet of six S-92s from Scatsta Airport to transfer oil workers to offshore installations.

A spokeswoman said: “Bristow is complying fully with the enhanced inspection regime required by Sikorsky during the manufacturer’s investigation of cracks reported in some S-92 gearbox feet.

“This inspection has been developed by Sikorsky and assures continued airworthiness and safety of the aircraft. Safety is always our first priority and inspection of this area is mandated every 10 flying hours, which means daily inspection for Bristow’s fleet of S-92s.

“Bristow is confident that the enhanced inspection regime will detect any defect in its earliest stages and in that event we will replace the gearbox prior to returning the aircraft to service.”

The coastguard first used S-92s in December 2007 when it took delivery of two of the aircraft to replace the venerable S61, which had been a hallmark of Shetland’s search and rescue service for many years.


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