Hunt for crash helicopter’s black box continues

The salvage operation at the crash-site of Friday’s tragic helicopter crash off Sumburgh has been ongoing.

Attempts are being made to retrieve the tail section of the Super Puma L2 aircraft containing the flight data recorder which could reveal vital information surrounding the incident.

Specialist sonar and camera equipment is being used in the search off Quendale Bay in the hope of finding the black box.

As part of the investigation into the accident the wreckage will be laid out in a hangar in Farnborough.

Crew members and surviving passengers will also be interviewed, while radar and meteorological data will be collected for analysis.

Chief inspector of the Air Accident Investigation Branch Keith Conradi said any safety deficiencies found would soon be highlighted.

“Once we have validated the data and downloaded it we will produce a fairly short special bulletin, and if we have found any safety deficiencies at that stage we will include safety recommendations, but a final report will take much longer.”

Union leaders insist confidence in Super Puma helicopters should be fully restored before the controversial aircraft is brought back into service. All Super Puma flights were grounded in the wake of the tragedy.

John Taylor of the Unite union says no off-shore worker should have to fly in a Super Puma if they have concerns about its safety.

He warned flights would have to resume in the long-term if the oil and gas industry was to avoid facing redundancies.

But he said they should not do so until faith had been restored.

Offshore workers had been tentatively gaining confidence in the controversial aircraft since last October’s ditching of an EC225 model near Fair Isle, in which 19 passengers and crew survived unharmed thanks to calm sea-conditions.

But with four other North Sea incidents involving Super Pumas in the last five years, Friday’s crash is being recognised as a game changer.

Industry talks concerning the crash and the ramifications of flight suspensions took place yesterday. A steering group meeting is scheduled to take place tomorrow.

“I sit on the HSSG (Helicopter Safety Steering Group) which recommended that the Super Pumas be temporarily suspended. That was the position on Saturday, and that is the position just now,” said Mr Taylor.

“We will be supporting our members who don’t want to fly in a helicopter.

“All the Super Pumas are grounded and they will stay grounded just now. The industry is meeting as we speak to look at the ramifications of this suspension. The HSSG which I sit on meets again on Wednesday to look at the situation.

“We might be in a minority and the industry might lift the suspension, or the industry might agree to go ahead, but you could see thousands of people being laid off.

“We already know that some companies are starting to look at only keeping essential personnel on platforms.

“It’s a consequence of taking 50 per cent of the transport out. If you take 50 per cent of the helicopters out, you’ve reduced the ability of taking people to and from platforms.

“If the helicopters are unsafe then nobody should be flying in them. If the argument is that the helicopters are safe than the balance is convincing people that they are safe.

“Most people are concerned when getting in a helicopter anyway. At the present moment they are even more concerned.”

Concerns have been heightened by reports of an earlier emergency alert sparked on a Super Puma as it travelled the same route just days before last week’s incident.

The helicopter’s manufacturer Eurocopter has insisted everything possible has been done to ensure the Super Puma’s safety, although it has said more needs to be done to understand the causes of Friday’s crash.


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