Super Puma helicopter fault strands oil workers

Super Puma helicopters have been involved in a number of incidents in recent years. Picture: AFP
Super Puma helicopters have been involved in a number of incidents in recent years. Picture: AFP
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OFFSHORE workers were stranded on a North Sea platform overnight after a fault was detected on a Super Puma helicopter.

The helicopter was preparing to take off from the North Alwyn installation when an indicator light came on in the cockpit of the EC225.

The fault emerged as pilots carried out a routine pre-flight check on Thursday.

The chopper was on the only heli-deck on the platform 140 miles off Shetland – meaning workers are stranded on board until the problem is resolved.

An engineer was due to head out to the rig yesterday morning to examine the aircraft, but the chopper operators stressed that it was not a serious fault.

One worker on the Total-operated North Alwyn, who did not want to be named, said: “The Super Puma had landed at 6:45pm, then refuelled in preparation to take around 15 or 16 people onshore.

“They had to remain on the platform overnight and we were concerned, to say the least, as the Pumas have only just returned to service.”

A spokesperson for CHC helicopters said Thursdsay’s situation was a non-emergency event involving a “return to base” (RTB) warning light.

An RTB is when the crew of the helicopter are told to return to their starting base due to a minor technical issue or warning light coming on.

However, as the EC225 was already on a platform when the warning light came on, the crew were told to stay where they were until the cause of the fault was determined.

The CHC spokeswoman said: “We do have an EC225 on the North Alwyn platform.

“It was sitting on the rig when the indicator light came on with a return to base signal. This is not an emergency event.”

The EC225 model of Super Puma was given clearance to fly again in July after being grounded for eight months.

All EC225 choppers were grounded after two of the aircraft ditched in the North Sea in May and October last year.

Investigations revealed that both aircraft had cracks in gearbox parts.

New safety measures have now been introduced to prevent similar problems occuring on EC225 helicopters.

Four people were killed when an AS332 L2 Super Puma crashed into the North Sea off the coast of Shetland last month.

The helicopter had flown to three rigs – including the North Alwyn – before plunging into the sea on its approach to Sumburgh Airport.

The UK’s offshore workforce has suffered a crisis of confidence in Eurocopter’s range of Super Puma aircraft in recent years.

There have been five incidents involving various models of the aircraft since 2009.

One offshore worker’s wife said she was very worried over this latest development.

She added: “It is terrible these workers are stuck out there and there will be many families wondering what is going on with the Super Pumas.”