Manufacturer admits majority of North Sea workers would boycott flights on its fatal Superpuma helicopter

An Airbus Super Puma 225 helicopter
An Airbus Superpuma 225 helicopter

Almost two-thirds (62%) of North Sea workers would not fly to work on the Superpuma helicopter which was involved in a fatal air crash last year – even though it has now been cleared to fly by the UK civil aviation authority.

An Airbus Superpuma H225 crashed into the sea near the Norwegian coast in April 2016, killing 13 people, including Scots oil worker Iain Stuart, from Laurencekirk.

Since then the aircraft has undergone 2,000 hours of testing and 370 experts have contributed to safety improvements.

Airbus, the manufacturer of Superpuma helicopters, has also carried out a survey of North Sea workers and aircrew in order to establish their attitudes towards helicopter safety, which showed that 62% of respondents would be ‘unlikely to fly in a Superpuma helicopter – given a choice’.

 It also found that 44% of respondents were unaware of work done to improve safety since the Superpuma crash in April 2016, including increased monitoring and inspection measures and more regular replacement of gearbox components.

UNITE, an offshore workers’ trade union, has since launched a petition opposing the re-introduction of the Superpuma helicopters which has been signed by thousands of offshore workers from across Aberdeen-and-shire who remain concerned about their safety and reputation.

A private members’ debate – calling for Airbus to halt and/or reverse any planned resumption of flights by H225 Superpuma helicopters – has been held in Holyrood on a motion put down by Labour MSP Lewis MacDonald.

He said: “There are workers who would simply not get on board a Super Puma. Airbus have clearly done a lot of work on safety but I think the workforce need more reassurance about what that actually means.

“My call is for full transparency and full engagement with the workforce both by Airbus and the operators and the customers, the oil companies.”

An Airbus spokesman commented: “We welcome open and informed discussion on the safety of offshore helicopters and this is clearly a topic of great importance to MSPs.

“While global and national independent authorities have lifted all H225 flight restrictions based on new safety measures, Airbus Helicopters understands the importance of restoring confidence in the aircraft ahead of any return to service. We are now in the process of informing the workforce and wider community of the updates.”

25 Oct 2017

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