Sikorsky Grounds All S92 Aircraft Following North Sea Incident

Sikorsky has grounded all S92 aircraft for safety checks following an incident on a North Sea platform.

The incident took place Dec. 28 when a CHC helicopter took significant gouge marks out of the West Franklin platform as it was attempting to land. The vehicle was believed to have developed a technical fault. No one was injured in the incident and the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) is currently investigating the case.

“Safety is our top priority and Sikorsky is working closely with our customer and investigative authorities to determine the root cause of the loss of tail rotor authority in the Dec. 28 installation landing,” a Sikorsky representative told Rigzone.

“Although the investigation into the Dec. 28 incident has not been completed, Sikorsky released an Alert Service Bulletin on Jan. 10 to define additional interim inspection requirements for the S-92 Tail Rotor Pitch Change Shaft. Those procedures include an off-aircraft check of the PCS bearing and that check must be done before next flight with some leeway for getting back to base. We are committed to keeping our customers informed. We will further communicate findings if the investigation reveals any safety or airworthiness issues that affect the S-92 helicopter fleet,” the representative added.

Les Linklater, the executive director of Step Change in Safety, stated that the grounding instructions were likely to cause short term delays.

“This morning Sikorsky released an Alert Service Bulletin (ASB 92-64-001) for the S92 requiring a onetime visual inspection of the Tail Rotor Pitch Change Shaft and Bearing assembly on the world wide S92 fleet prior to the next flight,” Linklater said.

“The decision made by Sikorsky is a precautionary measure to ensure continued safe flight operations and we are aware that helicopter operators are working to assess the impact of this requirement, while investigating all opportunities to limit the effects on the flying program. Currently the duration of the inspections is expected to take up to 11 man hours, which means this will cause some short term delays,” he added.

Mick Borwell, health, safety and environment director with Oil & Gas UK, backed the decision to ground S-92 helicopters.

“This is the expected response from a helicopter manufacturer when a potential problem has been identified,” he said.

“It is a precautionary measure to ensure the continued safe transportation of the workforce. There will be some short term disruption to operations while these checks are carried out but every possible step will be taken to minimize that. We will continue to monitor events. We support any steps being taken to further ensure the safe travel of the UK offshore workforce,” he added.

Last year an EC225 helicopter crashed while carrying a Statoil crew from the Gullfaks B oil platform to the Bergen airport on the West Coast of Norway. All 13 passengers on board were killed.

Norwegian investigators said in preliminary findings that the crash was caused by a technical fault causing the Super Puma's main rotor blades to be separated from the aircraft, Reuters reported.

Statoil has since stated that it will stop using the H225 Super Puma helicopter as part of its fleet following the crash.

“We have no plans for using the H225 model in our fleet service in the future,” Statoil representative Morten Eek told Rigzone in December.

A graduate in journalism from Cardiff University, Andreas has eight years of experience as a business journalist. Email Andreas at andreas.exarheas@rigzone.com

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