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Helicopter floats inflate in flight

Super Puma helicopter fault raises safety concerns


A helicopter's emergency flotation mechanism inflated in mid-air, forcing the aircraft to turn back from flying workers to a North Sea oil platform.

The helicopter, operated by CHC, had 14 people on board when the two external floats inflated without warning on approach to a rig in the Buzzard field, approximately 62 miles north east of Aberdeen.

The Super Puma AS332L landed safely at Aberdeen Airport.

The incident follows the deaths of 16 men in a Super Puma, an AS332L2 model, the previous month in what was believed to be a serious gearbox failure.

CHC said that "rigorous checks" will be carried out on the helicopter and an investigation has been launched to determine what caused the floats to inflate.

"This incident has re-raised safety fears following last month's tragedy," said the RMT union's Bob Crow. "No corners should be cut in investigating what happened and our members are demanding reassurances as to their safety."

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Keith Barrett from Irwin Mitchell said: "Although we must of course wait for the results of any investigation, this is yet another frightening incident involving a Super Puma Helicopter. There should be systems in place to prevent an incident such as this happening. It is all too common for "rigorous checks" to be carried out after an incident occurred. The owner and operator of all helicopters should be proactive and not reactive to ensure that the safety of passengers is always paramount, not just during any flight, but before any craft leaves the ground."