North Sea crash helicopter suffered gearbox failure

 

A helicopter carrying 19 people was forced to ditch in the North Sea due to a gearbox failure, according to an Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) report.

The aircraft was carrying an oil crew from Aberdeen to a rig 86 miles (138km) north-west of Shetland when it ditched at around 3.30pm on Monday.

The 17 passengers and two crew were taken off their life raft by a rescue craft launched from the Nord Nightingale vessel, which was close to the scene.

They were taken back to the tanker and flown by RAF and Bond rescue helicopters to Kirkwall in Orkney.

No-one was injured and they returned to Aberdeen on Tuesday.

The AAIB report said a problem with the main gearbox lubrication system caused the pilots to take action.

The report said: "The crew of the helicopter carried out a controlled ditching following indications of a failure of the main gearbox (MGB) lubrication system and, subsequently, a warning indicating failure of the emergency lubrication system.

"All passengers and crew evacuated the helicopter and were subsequently rescued without injury."

The crew told the AAIB that lights on the helicopter's central warning panel illuminated, indicating that the oil pump system had failed and the emergency lubrication system, which is supposed to keep the gearbox going for 30 minutes, also failed.

An inspection of the aircraft, which was brought ashore at Peterhead harbour today, found a crack on a gear shaft.

The report said: "An initial visual examination has identified a 360-degree circumferential crack on the bevel gear vertical shaft, in the vicinity of the weld that joins two sections of the shaft. Therefore, the main and stand-by oil pump gears were no longer being driven."

A study of vibration equipment which monitors the engines and main rotor gearbox found that vibrations on the bevel gear, which eventually cracked, exceeded an alert threshold before the ditched flight.

The vibration monitoring information is recorded on a memory card which was last downloaded by the operator on Sunday. Data from earlier trips on the day of the ditching was not downloaded but there was no requirement to do so, the AAIB report said.

The ditching is the fourth serious helicopter incident in three years.

In May, all 14 passengers and crew members on a Super Puma helicopter were rescued after it ditched about 30 miles (48km) off the coast of Aberdeen. It was on a scheduled flight from Aberdeen Airport to a platform in the North Sea.

On April 1 2009, 16 people died when a Super Puma plunged into the sea off the Aberdeenshire coast. The gearbox of the Bond-operated helicopter failed while returning from the BP Miller platform.

The tragedy happened about six weeks after another Bond Super Puma with 18 people on board ditched in the North Sea as it approached a production platform owned by BP. Everyone survived that incident.

CHC Helicopter, the operator of the aircraft involved in the latest incident, suspended all flights with the EC225 Super Puma model after the ditching.

Two further operators, Bond and Bristow, also suspended scheduled flights with the model.

A spokesman for CHC said: "We are aware that the AAIB has issued a special bulletin. Representatives from across the industry will reconvene in meetings in Aberdeen tomorrow to agree the terms and timing against which to return 'on hold' aircraft to service."

The AAIB said an engineering investigation of the helicopter is continuing along with the manufacturer, Eurocopter, and the operator. Audio recordings from the flight will also be studied.

The European Aviation Safety Agency and Eurocopter are reviewing directives they issued after the incident in May in which operators of the EC225 model fitted with bevel gear shafts of a certain part number and serial were told to monitor the parts at set intervals after flights.

Before the AAIB report was published RMT offshore organiser Jake Molloy said gearbox problems were becoming concerning.

"It's been rumoured it was another gearbox issue and that is a major concern because that would be the third issue with this aircraft-type gearbox in the last few years," he said.

Mr Molloy added that workers had been frustrated over the delay to deal with safety issues.

"Many of the workforce will be extremely frustrated as some will be stuck offshore or alternatively stuck onshore, some of them perhaps not being paid.

"But I would hope that the frustration the guys are feeling will be tempered by the fact that the decision to suspend flights has been done in their best interests, and we are looking to prevent a recurrence of Monday's event."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

Loren Hughes: Financial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Analyst

Circa £45,000-£50,000 + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ac...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor