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AAIB’s Super Puma Safety Bulletin ‘Raises Major Concerns Over Ditching’

"Urgent Review" Needed According To Aviation Expert


A Special Bulletin issued by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) in relation to an incident which saw a Puma EC225 ditched in the North Sea on Monday (October 22nd) has highlighted serious safety concerns which must be addressed urgently, according to a top aviation lawyer at Irwin Mitchell.

The update from the authority revealed that the controlled ditching off the coast of the Shetland Islands was undertaken after indications of a failure to the main gearbox, as well as a warning indicating that the emergency lubrication system had failed.

Everyone on board the aircraft, two crewmembers and 17 passengers, were rescued following the incident. A number of offshore operators have also halted flights involving their Super Puma helicopters.

The AAIB is now using these preliminary findings as the basis of an investigation alongside Eurocopter and the European Aviation Safety Agency, which will include analysis of recorded data and all over the aspects of the flight.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist aviation law team, which represents injured victims and the families of those killed in air accidents in the UK and abroad, said this and earlier incidents have highlighted very significant questions which need to be answered. The team has experience of pursuing cases arising from accidents involving helicopters manufactured by Eurocopter as well as other manufacturers. The team have already been advising passengers of involved in the ditching on Monday.

Jim Morris, a former RAF pilot and Partner in Irwin Mitchell’s expert Aviation law team, said: “This is worryingly the second time that problems with the EC225’s gearbox have been implicated in a ditching this year alone, with a ditching in May being linked to gearbox oil pressure issues.

“In addition, 16 people were killed in 2009 when another Eurocopter helicopter, the AS332L2, suffered a gearbox failure.

“The fact that the AAIB have gone to the extent of issuing a special bulletin indicates that they feel this issue needs to be shared widely and that all operators which make use of EC225s need to be aware of what has happened with this helicopter. We would urge everyone across the industry to take note of the Special Bulletin which confirms that both EASA and Eurocopter are," Urgently reviewing the effectiveness and scope " of previous Airworthiness Directives.....with a view to reissuing these to widen the applicability and modify the monitoring intervals”"

Jim added: “We fully agree that an urgent review is needed. These latest findings mean that many people across the aviation sector will be eagerly awaiting the results of the full investigation into this incident, and any revised guidance. No doubt some operators who use the EC225 will be taking enhanced precautions now, even before the revised guidance is issued. We welcome such precautionary action as safety should remain the primary consideration, first, last and always.

"The further investigation should also identify exactly how the gearbox issues were caused and whether they could have been prevented.

“There remain more questions than answers at this stage but we hope that as much information as possible can be gained which will ensure lessons are learned and safety improved.”