Oil workers – and the families of Scots workers who died in earlier crashes – have launched a petition calling for the Super Puma helicopter to be banned following the latest fatal accident involving an aircraft of this type.
Thirteen people – including a Scottish national – died last week when an Airbus Super Puma 225 crashed off the coast of Norway
The 11 passengers and two crew on the flight from the Gullfaks B oil platform, operated by Norway’s Statoil were all Norwegian except for one British and one Italian national.
The dead man has been named locally as 41 year old oil worker Iain Stuart from Laurencekirk in Aberdeenshire. He worked for the oil field services company Halliburton.
In a statement, his family said they were “devastated” at his loss. “Iain was a loving husband and devoted father to his two children and as a family we are heartbroken. He was a caring son, brother, uncle and friend to many,” they said.
“We are appreciative of all the messages of support and kind thoughts. We now ask, as a family, that we are allowed some privacy at this difficult and sad time to grieve and come to terms with our loss.”
Both Norway and Britain have suspended commercial flights of the type of helicopter involved in the crash, an Airbus Helicopters H225 Super Puma, a workhorse of the offshore oil industry.
The petition calling for the Super Puma helicopter to be withdrawn from all flights worldwide has attracted more than 11,000 signatures in support.
Launching the petition, David Winder from Middlesex, said: “This petition is for all North Sea Offshore Oil Workers and their families, and the public at large, to finally say enough is enough with the Super Puma airframe.
“In signing this petition you are asking for the Airbus 225 Super Puma to be permanently removed from service as its been involved in one incident too many, where yet again fatalities have occurred, and you wish to express a vote of no-confidence in the safety of this airframe.
“We call on the CAA to put the lives of Offshore Oil Workers and the pilots before vested interests, and revoke the air worthiness certificates for this aircraft. Failure to do this will result in more needless deaths.
“We ask that the Airbus 225 Super Puma has its Air Worthiness Certification revoked and that no more Offshore Oil Workers or pilots be put at risk because of the inherent design flaws of this airframe.
“Safety is paramount in our industry, and this airframe has now lost the confidence of the work force who believe it to be unsafe.
“We ask that no more people die because of the failure of regulatory bodies to act in the interests of the passengers instead of the operators and those with vested interests.
“This airframe should have been withdrawn from service after the last incident where deaths occurred, but we were told that the modifications made would ensure the safety of us all.
“Having watched the rotor blades of the Super Puma silently fall to the ground in the recent media reports after the latest incident it’s time for you to act.”
The petition has also been signed by Audrey Wood from Newmachar, Grampian. She said: “I lost my son in the 2009 incident. Seven years on and my life has stood still. Wouldn’t wish this heartache on my worst enemy.
“All variants of Puma should be removed from the oil industry. Men should feel safe travelling to work – not fear that they will never see their loved owns at home again! Get rid!
And fellow signatory Karen Ritchie added: “My nephew was killed in an almost identical incident 7 years ago involving a Super Puma, people should feel safe when they are travelling to their place of work and obviously this is not a safe mode of transport!! Thinking of all family members involved.”
Neil Case, from Kessingland, UK, added: “They should have been taken out of service in 2009 after 16 fatalities returning from the Miller platform.”
The fatal flight which crashed in Norway was operated by Canada-based CHC Helicopter, owned by US private equity firm First Reserve.
In 2012, two EC225 Super Puma helicopters crashed in Scotland – one off Aberdeen and another off Shetland. Both incidents were blamed on gearbox problems. All passengers and crew were rescued.
All Super Puma EC225 helicopters in the UK were grounded following the crashes but given the go-ahead to resume flying in August 2013.
Later that same month a different model of Super Puma, the AS332 L2, crashed off Shetland, killing four people.
Super Pumas are responsible for many of the 140,000 helicopter passenger flights in the UK each year. Formerly known as the Eurocopter EC225LP Super Puma, the aircraft is a long-range helicopter widely used in the oil and gas industry, as well as for VIP flights and search and rescue. Eurocopter changed its name to Airbus Helicopters in early 2014.
Flight tracking service Flightradar24 said Norway crash helicopter dropped 2,100 feet in its last 10 seconds.
Imposing a temporary ban on commercial flights using the same type of helicopter, the Norwegian Civil Aviation Authority said it was too early to determine the cause of the crash.
Arne Sigve Nylund, Statoil’s head of production in Norway, said: “This is one of the worst accidents in Norwegian oil history.” The passengers worked for different companies, but were all on assignments for Statoil, he added.
Local eye-witnesses told Norwegian media they saw the rotor blades separating from the helicopter while still in the air.
“While I looked up, the rotor (blades) loosened and disappeared toward the north,” John Atle Sekkingstad told a local paper.
“After that, the helicopter turned north and I saw fire at the top of the helicopter, where the rotor had been attached. It caught fire before it crashed.”
The main body of the aircraft was lying under water, while its rotor was found on a rocky outcrop about 250 yards away, state broadcaster NRK said, quoting the rescue centre.
Oil worker Chris Andersen told NRK: “I saw the rotor separate … It was horrible. There was a huge explosion that you could physically feel. You felt the vibrations.”