ONE of the North Sea’s three main helicopter companies has placed an order for ten new aircraft to help ease the crew change crisis caused by the grounding of the Super Puma EC225 fleet.
Bristow Helicopters is taking deliver of ten Sikorsky S92 helicopters with options for another 16 of the aircraft to supplement its operations across the globe.
All 16 EC225s operating in the North Sea - one-fifth of the entire fleet - are expected to remain out of service until at least February. They have been grounded since 22 October when a CHC-operated Super Puma EC225 was forced to ditch off Shetland. Another Super Puma EC225 ditched 30 miles off the coast of Aberdeen in May. Bristow alone operates eleven EC225s in the UK
Both ditchings have led to the discovery of “potentially catastrophic” mechanical failures in the gearbox - identical cracks near a weld in the main vertical gear shaft. In both cases, tests have shown identical problems which resulted in a false alarm being issued over a lubrication system failure.
A spokeswoman for Bristow said: “Bristow Helicopters is working hard to minimise, and ultimately eliminate, disruption for our clients and their passengers following the recent suspension from operation of some of the Eurocopter Super Pumas. In cooperation with our clients we have re-allocated and re-deployed the use of additional helicopters from our global fleet to support our operations in the North Sea.
“Additionally, and in response to the current situation, as well as the forecasted increasing global demand for large helicopters, we have secured available S92s from Sikorsky. We have ordered ten additional new Sikorsky S92 large aircraft for delivery in 2013 and 2014 together with options for 16 more for delivery between 2014 and 2017.
“Bristow is in on-going discussions with our clients on safely serving their current and future needs by ensuring the availability of helicopters.”
The order with Sikorsky is understood to be valued in the region of £170 million. According to Bristow, the safety alert issued following the Super Puma ditching is affecting eleven of the company’s EC225 helicopters in the UK, three EC225 helicopters in Australia, one EC225 helicopter in Norway and one AS332L2 helicopter in Nigeria.
The company said in a business statement: “An incident involving another operator and an EC225 helicopter in May 2012 that resulted in a similar directive did not have a material financial impact on our company. However, we are unable to determine whether this incident on 22 October and the resulting actions taken by the Civil Aviation Authority could have a material effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations at this time.”