Airbus Helicopters has made the results of its survey available to operators and oil companies, but not officially to the press. However, we have validated from a reliable source that 62% of respondents say they are most unlikely to, or will never, fly in the H225 again. Airbus are trying to compare this to the survey by recruitment website Oil & Gas People, which found 90% of offshore workers would not fly in the 225 again but how similar the profile of each surveyed group is to each other is not clear. Inevitably, Airbus are trying to set the worse result aside suggesting it was not representative of the whole situation, and even the wording of the survey questions could bring a different result.
Other aspects which came out from the Airbus survey included the preference for someone to provide a technical explanation of the safety situation to passengers and what remedial actions are taken, rather than relying on heresay from fellow workers. The survey did not delve further as to whether such technical explanation would need to be from someone independent of the manufacturer. Additionally, a significant number were not aware of the remedial actions required to allow the type to fly.
Nevertheless, it is clear that Airbus still has a major uphill struggle to get the 225 back on the North Sea and other locations around the world. With CHC already stating they will not fly the type again, focus then goes to Bristow and Babcock as operators. While NHV does have two AS332L2s (which also has the same safety concern) in its fleet, it has never operated them on the North Sea and they remain stored at Félix-Houphouët-Boigny International Airport, ten miles south east of Abidjan in the Ivory Coast. Each operator will need to review the safety implications before their Accountable Manager can sign off the type, and then the oil companies are doing their own due diligence as well. Norway’s Statoil has already said they will not fly the type again.
In their continued effort to salvage this very difficult situation, we hear that Airbus are trying to bring an H225 to the Helitech expo in London next month as part of their PR effort. The future of the type is bleak, to be frank. If an operator does agree to fly them, it’s then dependent on the oil companies agreeing to use the type as well – no doubt under significant pressure from the offshore workers’ unions, who have shown unanimous refusal to allow their members to fly in EC225s again. Assuming all those hurdles are passed, the operators will first look to the aircraft they have inhibited, and after that look at the best priced aircraft in the market. These will be the hand-back and repossessed aircraft including many ex-CHC aircraft. Moving up the price band will eventually reach the new aircraft which the leasing companies had committed to – which makes us wonder whether the manufacturer will build any new civil-market examples ever again.
And even with all this, many interested parties will not even start work on this subject until the Norwegian investigators have published the results of their work on the accident to the CHC helicopter off Bergen on 29th April 2016.
Jeremy Parkin – HeliHub.com
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