Eurocopter addresses the Helicopter Safety Steering Group
The Helicopter Safety Steering Group met on 15 November, to discuss the ongoing situation regarding the suspension of EC255 models.
Eurocopter signalled their commitment to working closely with the helicopter operators and the offshore industry by providing senior representatives to update the group, including their president and chief executive, Dr Lutz Bertling and their chief technical officer Jean-Brice Dumont.
Also present at the meeting were representatives from the three helicopter operators, oil and gas operators and contractors, the trade unions, the pilots’ union BALPA, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Step Change in Safety, Oil & Gas UK, and elected safety representatives.
Eurocopter, like all the other parties involved in the ongoing air accident investigation, are strictly bound by the terms of the enquiry which limit how much they can openly discuss. They were, however able to share the following information:
- Despite similarities between the two incidents, the actual failure of the shaft in the second ditching on 22 October is not identical to the shaft failure on 10 May, in terms of where the crack originated. However, it is very similar and both are expected to have the same root cause, when this is finally determined.
- Eurocopter has a strong line of investigation and hypothesis for the root cause of the incident. This is being verified through extensive testing, with oversight from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB). Engineers are working around the clock carrying out tests on gearbox components to attempt to prove this hypothesis. They expect to have an answer within the coming weeks.
- The investigation has shown that the Emergency Lubrication System (EMLUB), despite a warning indicating failure of this system, appears to have operated correctly during the flight on October 22. Eurocopter teams will continue to investigate the reasons for the false warning of EMLUB failure in the cockpit with tests to be performed this week at the engine manufacturer's facility.
- Eurocopter has committed to being as open and transparent as possible and has extended an invitation to the industry and workforce to see their testing and investigations first-hand.
When a solution is provided, it must satisfy the CAA in order for flying to resume offshore in the UK. During the meeting, the CAA stated that the problems with both the failure of the shaft and the emergency lubrication warning must be fully addressed before they consider lifting the operational directive which currently prevents the EC225 from flying offshore. This is also the position of the HSSG and its members.
What happens next?
The HSSG supports Eurocopter in finding a permanent solution to the issue. Eurocopter has assured the group that there will be no short cuts and no rushed solution and it will take as long as necessary.
A conclusive root cause for the failure of the shaft will help Eurocopter identify permanent solutions, but not necessarily an immediate return to flying for the EC225 model.
The root causes and solutions must be agreed and signed off by the CAA and AAIB and communicated to HSSG and the workforce in a way that everyone can understand.
The HSSG looks to be guided by the technical expertise of the regulators and is fully aligned with the helicopter operators and the wider oil and gas industry that safety must be the number one priority. The HSSG has confidence in the EC225 and looks forward to it returning to flight again when we are all fully agreed that it is safe to do so.
Background and technical information
Eurocopter has provided the HSSG with detailed background and technical information and images. In addition, the HSSG compiled a list of questions from its members and the workforce.
You can download Eurocopter's answers below.