AVIATION company Bond Helicopters is to resume all routine offshore crew change flights for the first time since last Thursday’s dramatic ditching of a Super Puma in the North Sea.
• The full fleet of Bond helicopters will return to service over the next 24 hours
• Company says no linkage between gearbox incidents
The company had grounded all of its Super Puma helicopters after a bulletin from the Air Accident Investigation Branch revealed that the Super Puma EC (Eurocopter) 225 which ditched in the sea after a low oil pressure warning had a crack in its gearbox shaft.
In April 2009, two Bond pilots and 14 oil workers were killed when another version of the Super Puma, the AS332L2, plunged into the North Sea after suffering a “catastrophic” gear box failure.
The aircraft’s manufacturers Eurocopter announced on Monday night that, following a detailed review, they had issued a service information notice stating that the Super Puma EC225 and AS332 L/L2 fleets could be “safely operated within the standard operational limits.”
Bill Munro, Managing Director of Bond Offshore Helicopters said: “As a result of our detailed inspections, we are confident that there is no linkage between the gearbox-related incidents that Bond Helicopters have experienced, the causes of which have been proven to be beyond our control.”
A spokesman for the company explained: “The gearbox that suffered the failure was fitted with a bevel shaft that was specifically designed for EC225 and was certified in 2004. Bond Helicopters’ three AS332L2’s are fitted with a different bevel gear shaft that has completed 4.5 million flight hours without defect. Bond Offshore Helicopters Ltd. have conducted numerous risk assessments and are now satisfied that by adhering to the HUMS monitoring system recommendations made by Eurocopter these helicopters are safe to fly pending a permanent solution to the problem.
“In order to ensure the safe operation of the EC225 fleet, Bond Offshore Helicopters Ltd. are conducting boroscope tests on each of the bevel gear shafts to confirm that no cracks are present. In addition, and in common with the AS332L2’s, the HUMS system will be used to monitor vibration in the main gear box (includes bevel gear shaft monitoring) and two oil pumps in order to ensure the safe operation of this particular helicopter type.
“Bond Offshore Helicopters Ltd. continues to work with Eurocopter and the regulatory authorities to find a permanent solution to the issues that have challenged the industry with regard to the Eurocopter EC225.”