Transport minister Humza Yousaf last night pledged to meet offshore workers to consider an inquiry into helicopter safety in the wake of a Super Puma crash that cost 13 lives.
Mr Yousaf made the promise during a Holyrood debate called by Labour’s Lewis Macdonald expressing concern at the safety record of the aircraft, which was once regarded as the workhorse of the North Sea oil industry. Super Pumas were grounded after the crash in Norway last year, which claimed the lives of 13 people including of Iain Stuart, an oil worker from Laurencekirk, Aberdeenshire.
Since then the aircraft has undergone 2,000 hours of testing and 370 experts have contributed to safety improvements. It has now been cleared to fly by the UK and Norwegian aviation authorities.
However, offshore workers still have concerns about the Super Puma’s safety record. A survey carried out by Super Puma manufacturer Airbus found 62 per cent of offshore workers said they would be unlikely to fly in the aircraft if given the choice, while 44 per cent were unaware of work done to improve safety.
The RMT trade union has called for a public inquiry into the safety record of the helicopter, which has been involved in a series of fatal accidents since 2009. Mr Yousaf said the Scottish Government was working with the Offshore Helicopter Safety Action Group (OSHAG), which was taking forward safety recommendations.
The minister said he was “generally satisfied” with OSHAG’s progress, but added that he was willing to discuss an inquiry.
He said: “I would be more than happy to meet with Unite, the RMT to hear whether the workforce feel that perhaps those recommendations are not being taken forward at the pace they would like to.
“If that is the case I would like to hear from them the case for why they think a public inquiry – an independent inquiry, I should say – may well be the right route to go down. I have not settled on that.”
An Airbus spokesman said: “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.”