Airbus Helicopters have today issued the following statement to coincide with the publication of another Preliminary Report by AIBN – the Accident Investigation Board of Norway – into the fatal accident of EC225 LN-OJF on 29th April 2017, it being the first anniversary tomorrow. Further comment is given below the statement
Statement from Guillaume Faury, Airbus Helicopters CEO – 28/04/2017
1. Airbus Helicopters notes the publication of the preliminary report by the AIBN to mark the first anniversary of the H225 accident, which claimed the lives of 13 people off Turøy in Norway. We wish to express our deep regret at this tragedy, and again, we offer our sincere and profound sympathies to the bereaved families.
2. Since the accident, we have been providing our full and complete support to the investigation. We have had regular technical meetings with the authorities as well as with all relevant helicopter industry bodies. We look forward to every opportunity to discuss with them the safety recommendations and technical points arising from the report. We are totally committed to transparency in all matters regarding aviation safety and international helicopter regulations. Indeed, it is the essence of what we do.
3. In the course of the AIBN investigation, additional elements brought by the 2016 accident showed that there were mechanical similarities between the 2016 accident and an earlier one, in 2009. We were not aware of any related issue at the time of the 2016 accident.
4. The information available to us from the 2016 accident has allowed us to take protective measures that we could unfortunately not have put in place in 2009 based on the knowledge and evidence available at the time, and also because significant parts from the 2009 accident were never recovered.
5. We will continue to work with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and to comply with EASA airworthiness requirements. In the course of the investigation into the 2016 accident, we have implemented a set of protective measures which have been requested and validated by EASA. Nothing in this preliminary report alters this.
6. We are using lessons learned from the ongoing investigations into the 2016 accident to set new standards for the helicopter industry. As part of these efforts, we are also looking to improve working practices across the sector.
This statement is what any manufacturer would put out in the circumstances – to acknowledge facts and to demonstrate work being done. The fact that the AIBN has not yet reached a final Report means that there may still be more actions to come, but at 101 pages the report is not insignificant. There are still three avenues of enquiry that the AIBN has not yet completed, noted in section 3.1
- Further metallurgical examinations
- The differences in failure from that expected in the design and certification of the main rotor gearbox
- The similarities with an accident in 2009, and why more measures were not put in place in the results from the earlier investigation.
The accident came at a time when the oil price was very depressed, and was partially responsible for operator CHC going into Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings less than two weeks after the accident. This meant that a significant proportion of the offshore helicopter fleet (for all operators) was flying lower hours than would normally be expected, or had been mothballed. The investigation work and grounding of the EC225 and AS332L2 have given lots of organisations – the offshore operators, the oil companies, the oil workers’ trade unions, and so on – sufficient doubt about the helicopter type that there will need to be a massive PR exercise by Airbus Helicopters to ensure these helicopters fly once again in supporting offshore rigs etc. Norway’s very dominant oil company Statoil has been reported as saying that they will not use the EC225/AS332L2 again.
While EASA have themselves approved the EC225/AS332L2 to fly again, neither the UK or Norwegian CAA have followed suit, and even when those authorities are satisfied that the EC225 and AS332L2 are safe to fly, it would still need both the operators’ Accountable Managers to agree, as well as the oil companies to be happy to allow their employees and subcontractors to fly in them. Given the hard angle pushed by the trade unions, and a well-organised social media campaign by oil workers’ families, it is quite feasible that the type may never fly on the North Sea again, a widely-held view when HeliHub.com straw-polled attendees at the Helicopter Investor Conference in London earlier in the year. Let’s hope Airbus can turn that around.
Going forward, new technology being introduced may go some way to improving offshore safety. At Heli-Expo 2017 in Dallas, it was announced that Sikorsky, PHI Inc. and Outerlink Global Solutions had been collaborating to enable a helicopter’s Health Usage Monitoring System to communicate live data during a flight instead of waiting until it was back at base to download that data. Honeywell also announced an STC to link their HUMS system to satcom for the same purposes.
Jeremy Parkin – HeliHub.com
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