An offshore union has announced holding a protest against CHC Helicopter after one of the company’s Super Puma aircraft crashed into the North Sea on Friday killing four people.
The accident represents the fifth instance involving this type of helicopter crashing into the North Sea since 2009, renewing concerns about safety.
The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) has announced a protest against the aircraft’s operator, CHC, is going to be held at the Super Puma heliport in Aberdeen later today.
"The time has come for the offshore industry to start treating their workforce with respect and dignity, and that means no more hollow words on safety and a lifting of the ban on union access to the workforce,” said Union general secretary Bob Crow.
Meanwhile, the search for the aircraft’s black boxes continues, using advanced sonar systems. The black box data will hopefully shed some light on the causes of the accident that killed four out of 16 passengers travelling aboard the Super Puma AS332 L2 in the Shetland region.
CHC has suspended all Super Puma AS332 L2 flights, as well as all UK flights involving other Super Puma types.
Following the recommendation of offshore industry’s Helicopter Safety Steering Group, fellow operators Bond Offshore Helicopters and Bristow also enforced a temporary suspension of all Super Puma flights except emergency rescue missions.
"The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) will be reviewing information including debriefs with pilots and passengers, air traffic records, technical data and records, and the aircraft and its on-board systems,” said Duncan Trapp, vice president for safety and quality at CHC Helicopter.
"We are fully supporting the early stages of the investigation into the incident and will continue to give our full co-operation to this process,” he said.
However, Trapp has said the industry hasn’t been cutting corners regarding safety. "There has been a huge amount of work by everyone involved in safety in the offshore oil-and-gas industry to mitigate the risks of working in and travelling to offshore installations, he said.
"Consultation and collaboration between helicopter operators, the oil and gas companies and the unions representing pilots and offshore workforce has led to technical advances, improved predictability and the mitigation of the risks flying in the North Sea presents.
The suspended helicopters account for about half of the available seats used to transfer platform workers. Helicopter operators now have to address how to make up for their grounding.
Representatives of Eurocopter, who manufacturers the troubled Super Puma, have left for Aberdeen to take part in the investigations.
According to information available two of the previous accidents involving Super Puma were caused by a gearbox failure.