Offshore unions say they are ‘disappointed’ that operators of the Super Puma helicopter forced to ditch in the North Sea last have not grounded all similar aircraft.

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Offshore unions say they are ‘disappointed’ that the operators of the Super Puma helicopter forced to ditch in the North Sea last week because of a cracked gearbox shaft have not grounded all similar aircraft until industry-wide safety concerns are resolved.

Speaking after an emergency meeting in Aberdeen, following Thursday’s accident, Unite regional officer John Taylor told UnionNews: “We think it would be prudent to ground all the Super Puma 225 helicopters until these questions are answered and yet some of these aircraft are still flying out of Bristol today.”

It is reported that the Super Puma manufacturer, Eurocopter, has identified a ‘faulty batch’ of oil pumps were used in the aircraft forced to ditch in rough seas off Aberdeen last week.

However, the emergency meeting found that this batch of pumps was not used elsewhere in the North Sea fleet, raising concerns that this had only been identified after the accident.

RMT regional organiser, Jake Molloy, told UnionNews: “”There is still no single safety approach on these issues.

“We have three different operators all taking different positions on what to do here, which means we are left with a mixed, confused and frustrating picture.

“And that leaves our members offshore still worried. We need the operators to address this urgently.”

The meeting of the Helicopter Safety Steering Group – which was set up in response to the 2009 crash of a similar helicopter in which 16 North Sea oil workers and crew were killed – heard that the company, Bond Offshore has tabled a list of six safety and technical questions for Eurocopter.

Unions say there are strong reasons to ground the entire Super Puma fleet until those questions are answered.

“It’s not ‘War and Peace’ we’re asking them,” said John Taylor.

“We could hear from them as soon as tomorrow, but in the meantime we have no consistent answers from the industry experts.

“We are getting calls all the time from members asking us: ‘do we have to fly?’

“Our answer is that anyone who thinks it’s unsafe can refuse to fly offshore.”

The Super Puma was forced to ditch in rough seas, around 28 miles from Aberdeen after a crack in the main gearbox shaft caused the lubrication system to fail. The crew and passengers were all safely rescued and two passengers were treated for minor injuries.

Unions have welcomed steps by the aircraft operators to increase the safety thresholds of on-board technical monitoring equipment until the full cause of Thursday’s accident is known.


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