The Super Puma AS332 L2 manufactured by Eurocopter has been involved in 5 incidents in the North Sea since 2009

Troubled Super Pumas will return to flight

The Helicopter Safety Steering Group (HSSG) has recommended the Super Puma helicopters operating in the North Sea should return to service.

Operators suspended the aircraft’s flights after an AS332 L2 model crashed off the Shetland coast last Friday, killing four people aboard.

Despite the cause of the accident not being known yet, the HSSG said there is no substantial evidence support for keeping the fleet grounded.

HSSG spokesman Les Linklater said several aviation authorities - including a pilots' union and helicopter operators themselves - had expressed confidence in the aircraft made by Eurocopter, part of the EADS aerospace group.

Following the decision, the L, L1 and EC225s Super Puma models will return to service immediately, while the L2 model involved in last week’s crash will be at the moment reintroduced only for non-passenger flights.

On Thursday, rescue teams recovered the helicopter’s black box, which is now being examined by the UK Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB). Though no results have been made public yet, it is believed the data from the flight recorders could shed light on the causes of the accident.

However, an online petition calling for a complete ban on Super Pumas has gained over 12,000 signatures and a Facebook page called "Destroy the Super Pumas" has 37,500 likes.

The HSSG explained that despite the tragedy, nearly 16,000 people working offshore have been affected by the grounding as the Super Pumas make up about a half of the fleet serving the North Sea oil industry. The remaining available aircraft – mostly manufactured by US Sikorsky Aircraft and United Technologies – are now facing difficulties to meet the increased demand.

"We have a duty of care to all offshore workers both in terms of their safety and their well-being," Linklater said.

The accident last Friday was the fifth crash involving Super Pumas in the North Sea since 2009. Following two incidents caused by gearbox problems, the aircraft was suspended for ten months, only returning to service in July this year.

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