North Sea helicopters: History of tragedies and heroic rescues
THE ditching of a Super Puma off Fair Isle is the latest in a series of incidents involving helicopters serving Scotland’s oil industry.
The most recent tragedy resulting in loss of life was on 1 April, 2009, when 16 people – 14 passengers and two crew – died when a Bond AS332L2 Super Puma ditched 12 miles north-east of Peterhead. The helicopter – seen right being winched ashore at Aberdeen – had been returning from a BP oil platform in the Miller field. Six weeks earlier, on 18 February, 16 passengers and two crew were rescued after a Bond EC225 Super Puma crashed into the sea 125 miles east of Aberdeen on its way to a BP oil production platform in the ETAP field.
The incident happened at about 7:15pm only 500 metres from the platform. Workers raised the alarm.
In March 1992, 11 men died after a Super Puma AS 332L helicopter crashed alongside the Cormorant Alpha platform, 100 miles north-east of Shetland.
In 1995, 18 people on board a Super Puma heading for an oil platform were rescued after it crashed into the North Sea 140 miles off Aberdeen. The following year 13 oil workers and four crew were rescued after a Super Puma developed engine trouble and ditched into the North Sea 15 miles north of Amsterdam.
On 9 May, 2012, all 12 passengers and two crew on board a Bond Super Puma EC225 survived after it ditched into the North Sea, 25 miles east of Aberdeen, shortly after midday on a journey to the Maersk Resilient and Ensco 102 drilling rigs in the Jasmine field.
The pilot carried out a controlled ditching after an oil pressure warning light came on. All on board made it on to a lift raft before being rescued.
Following the incident offshore, oil unions called for a helicopter safety group to be reconvened. A task force had been set up following the April 2009 Super Puma tragedy.
However, the highest death toll from helicopter crashes was in the Sumburgh disaster on 6 November, 1986, when a Boeing 234LR Chinook crashed with the loss of 43 passengers and two crew.
Two men, including Eric Morrans, right, survived. Left: wreckage is brought ashore.
The helicopter had been approaching Sumburgh airport, on the Shetland Islands, returning workers from the Brent oilfield. The helicopter had experienced a forward transmission failure 2.5 miles from the airport. Normally based at Aberdeen airport, the Chinook had been moved to Sumburgh a few days earlier to operate a shuttle service from the Brent oilfield.
Industry experts decided that Chinooks were too large for offshore work and the remaining aircraft were withdrawn and sold.
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