On 23 August 2013, a Eurocopter AS 332L2 Super Puma operated by CHC Helicopters was approaching Sumburgh Airport on the Shetland Islands when the aircraft lost height and crashed into the sea approximately 1.5 miles west of the runway. Of the 18 occupants, 4 people tragically lost their lives.

The number of crashes involving helicopters on journeys from offshore sites in recent years is worrying and a clear indication that something needs to be done to review and improve safety standards. A Special Bulletin published by the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) into this crash near Shetland found no evidence of a technical failure in relation to the helicopter. Attention has turned to other factors, most notably the operational aspects of the flight including the actions of the crew and why the helicopter was allowed to enter into flight parameters that caused it to lose lift and rapidly descend. 

On 8 July 2014 the Transport Select Committee published a report on the safety of flights in the oil and gas industry.  The Committee’s Report stated that a full independent public inquiry must be convened to address matters including whether “commercial pressure” from companies in the offshore oil sector is affecting safety and to also examine the role of the Civil Aviation Authority.

The call for a public inquiry has been welcomed by Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Aviation Law team, which also represents victims and the families of those affected by offshore helicopter crashes in October 2012 and in August last year, the police helicopter crash in Glasgow in November 2013 as well as the crash of an Augusta Westland helicopter in Vauxhall, London in January 2013.

However, the aviation team has urged the Government to ensure the scope of any Inquiry considers the wider issue of commercial passenger carrying helicopter safety throughout the entirety of UK airspace.

The lawyers wrote to MPs back in January this year calling for such a step, as well as consideration of a change in the law to ensure black-box flight data and cockpit voice recording equipment is fitted on all commercial passenger carrying helicopters operating in UK airspace.

If you would like to speak in confidence to an expert regarding this accident, or any other aviation incident you were involved in, please contact a member of the aviation team on 0800 056 4110 or see our personal injury page for more information. The team will be able to advise you on the accident, the relevant law and the parties who may be liable.

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