Helicopter manufacturer Airbus has grounded all models of aircraft similar to the one that crashed into the sea off Norway, leaving all 13 on board presumed dead.
The decision to put all commercial flights of the EC 225LP model Eurocopter Super Puma comes as the wreckage of the CHC Helicopter Service-owned, Statoil-operated chopper is lifted from the water off Bergen following Friday’s deadly accident.
CHC said that the grounding will not affect search-and-rescue missions with such models.
Flight HKS 241 was en route from Statoil’s Gullfaks B facility in the North Sea to Flesland Airport in Bergen when it went down outside the town of Turoy with 11 passengers and two crew members on board. Initial indications are that the rotor came off in mid-flight, something which the manufacturer has now confirmed.
Airbus said in a statement: “At this point in the investigation we do not have any information that allows us to understand the causes of the accident that involved the aircraft’s rotor being detached, nor to make any link to any events that have occurred previously.”
The bodies of eleven people have been recovered, with authorities considering the missing two dead.
The 11 passengers were made up of three Aker Solutions employees and one contractor working for the Norwegian Services Company, as well as employees of Statoil, Schlumberger, Halliburton, Denmark’s WellTec and Norway’s Karsten Moholt. The two crew members were employees of Canada’s CHC. The 13 comprised 11 Norwegians and one each from the UK and Italy.
Statoil’s chief executive Eldar Saetre and vice presidents Margareth Ovrum and Arne Sigve Nylund will on Saturday visit the centre opened for the next of kin in Bergen. The centre will also be visited by Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit.
“Today, Statoil is a company in mourning. Yesterday, we were hit by one of the most severe accidents in the history of the Norwegian oil industry. Many families have been hit, and we have lost good colleagues and friends,” Saetre said.
The company statement continued: “The Accident Investigation Board in Norway will investigate the accident, and Statoil will contribute to this job. Statoil will also start its own investigation in co-operation with the employee representatives and the safety delegates. This investigation will be coordinated with the work of the Accident Investigation Board.”
Statoil recently shut in production at Gullfaks B.
This was the first fatal flight accident off Norway since 1997 when a helicopter en route to Statoil’s Norne field crashed in the Norwegian Sea, killing all 12 people onboard.
Similar Super Puma helicopters were previously involved in five accidents in the British sector between 2009 and 2013, with the most serious occurring in 2009 when 16 people died after an earlier AS332 L2 model crashed off the coast of Scotland due to a catastrophic gearbox failure.
Newer EC225 models were involved in a pair of emergency landing incidents only five months apart in 2012 in which cracks were found in their main gearbox.
A further fatal accident occurred with another Super Puma in 2013 when four people were killed after the helicopter crashed into the sea on approach to Sumburgh airport in the Shetland Islands, though the accident was blamed on pilot error.