Super Puma Crash Inquiry ‘Must Lead To Helicopter Safety Improvements’

Legal Experts Reveal Hopes As Hearing Gets Underway In Aberdeen


Expert aviation lawyers representing the victims and families of those killed in helicopter crashes including The Clutha tragedy in Glasgow have revealed their hopes that the launch of the inquiry into the Super Puma crash in the North Sea in 2009 will lead to improvements in safety.

Expected to run for six weeks in Aberdeen, the fatal accident inquiry is focusing on the incident five years ago when 14 oil workers and two crew were killed in a crash off the coast of Aberdeenshire.

While the accident report into the crash revealed the helicopter’s main rotor gearbox suffered a “catastrophic failure”, this new hearing is to examine the circumstances of the crash with the aim of prevent further crashes in the future.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist aviation law team represent victims and the families of those killed in a series of helicopter crashes over the last 15 months, including the recent crash at The Clutha bar in Glasgow, Eurocopter crashes off the coast of Shetland in August and in the North Sea in October 2012 and the helicopter crash in London in January 2013.

Expert Opinion
The issue of helicopter safety in Britain is rightly in the spotlight and all eyes will be on this fatal accident inquiry into the 2009 Super Puma crash that was caused by gearbox failure.

"The aim of this inquiry is to understand the circumstances of that crash and to ensure lessons have been or will be learned. However, this enquiry is commencing almost 5 years since the accident and during that time there have been three further accidents involving Super Puma helicopters carrying oil rig workers, two of which were caused by gearbox lubrication problems.

"Too many innocent people have lost their lives or suffered life-changing injuries as a result of the helicopter crashes since 2009 and through our work on behalf of victims, we have seen how desperate they are for reassurances that no one else will suffer in the same way.

"We hope that the inquiry findings will help improve the safety of Super Puma operations in the North Sea and elsewhere. However, it is crucially important that the authorities and the aviation industry consider and act upon the broader issue of improving the safety of all types of helicopter operations in UK airspace. An important aspect of this is the review and amendment of the regulations so that all commercial passenger carrying helicopters are required to be fitted with Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) equipment.

"Super Puma helicopters were fitted with this equipment, which has provided crucial evidence for the accident investigators. However, under the present rules and regulations, the Eurocopter EC135 that crashed in Glasgow was not required to have FDR or CVR equipment, meaning that crucial real time evidence is not available for the investigators. Had this equipment been fitted, it could have provided key data and quicker answers regarding the cause or causes of the crash, which could in turn be used to improve flight safety in the future."
Jim Morris, Partner