All 16 helicopter crash victims
All 14 passengers and two crew on board the Super Puma died in the crash
All 14 passengers and two crew on board the Super Puma died in the crash
AFTERMATH: Peterhead lifeboat crew retrieve the wreckage of the Eurocopter Super Puma which crashed into the North Sea, killing all 16 on board. Picture: Colin Mearns Captain PAUL BURNHAM: Transmitted Mayday call. RICHARD MENZIES: Co-pilot of the Super Puma helicopter.
OPERATORS of a North Sea helicopter had been planning to replace its main rotor gearbox a week before the unit suffered a “catastrophic failure” leading to a crash which killed all 16 aboard, an air accident report said yesterday.
A magnetic particle had been found on the chip detector in the gearbox of the Eurocopter Super Puma, a final report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said. This had led the operator to initiate a plan to remove the main rotor gearbox and replace it with a unit from another helicopter undergoing heavy maintenance, the AAIB said.
However, actions taken following the discovery of the particle meant it was not recognised as an indication of the degradation of a part of the gearbox known as the second stage planet gear.
“The gearbox was declared serviceable by the operator and its planned replacement cancelled,” said the report.
It was this second stage planet gear that failed as a result of a fatigue crack, causing the failure of the main rotor gearbox.
As the helicopter was flying to Aberdeen from the Miller Platform in the North Sea on April 1, 2009, the main rotor separated from the fuselage and the aircraft crashed into the sea.
All 14 offshore workers and the two crewmen died.
The report told how, six seconds after expressing alarm, captain Paul Burnham transmitted “Mayday Mayday Mayday” followed one second later by co-pilot Richard Menzies transmitting “Mayday Mayday Mayday, this is Bond 85 November, emergency, currently on the 055”.
The report went on: “One second later, one of the flight crew uttered an expletive; this was the final radio transmission.”
The AAIB said the particle had been discovered on March 25, 2009. The operator’s engineers had sought the assistance of the manufacturer, Eurocopter, to deal with with what they considered to be a complex main rotor gearbox problem.
The AAIB added: “The use of verbal and email communication between the operator and manufacturer on March 25 led to a misunderstanding or miscommunication of the issue.”
The discovered particle was initially identified as a piece of scale.
However, further visual examination led the engineers to misidentify it as silver or cadmium plating which, according to the maintenance task card guiding maintenance staff, was “unimportant” and did not require the gearbox to be removed from service or to be put on “close monitoring”.
The AAIB said that after March 25, the existing detection methods did not provide any further indication of the degradation of the second stage planet gear. It added that the possibility of a material defect in the planet gear or damage due to the presence of foreign object debris “could not be discounted”.
The report said that after March 25 the maintenance task to examine the ring of magnets on the helicopter’s oil separator plates was not carried out.
The AAIB also said the helicopter did not provide an alert to the flight crew when the magnetic chip detector detected a particle.
The aircraft was at 2000ft when the accident happened. The first indication to the crew of a problem was loss of main rotor gearbox (MGB) oil pressure and the triggering of a master warning.
Two-and-a-half seconds before this indication, the co-pilot had made a radio transmission stating the helicopter was serviceable.
Immediately after the loss of MGB oil pressure, the helicopter began to descend and failed to respond to control inputs. The main rotor system separated from the helicopter approximately 20 seconds after the loss of MGB oil pressure.
During separation the main rotor blades struck the helicopter’s tail boom in several places, severing it from the fuselage.
In yesterday’s final report, which followed three interim reports, the AAIB listed 17 recommendations it had made during its investigation. They included recommendations to Eurocopter, the European Aviation Safety Agency, the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority and America’s Federal Aviation Administration.
Scotland’s Crown Office and Procurator-Fiscal Service (COPFS) welcomed the publication of the report on this “tragic incident, following a technically complex and challenging investigation”.
It went on: “The findings contained will now be fully considered by the health and safety division of COPFS.
“The division and Grampian Police have been engaged in this investigation since the tragedy occurred and will continue to progress lines of inquiry and carry out such investigation as is necessary in order that a decision may be taken in relation to the form of any proceedings.”
Welcoming the publication of the report, Bill Munro, Bond Offshore Helicopters’ managing director, said: “The report contains no recommendations for action by Bond. Following earlier interim recommendations by the AAIB, the manufacturer’s procedures have been strengthened and Bond, along with others in the industry, implemented those changes immediately.”
Super Puma's North Sea death crash fault 'not recognised'
A fault indication which led to a North Sea helicopter crash that killed 16 men was not recognised just a week earlier, a report has found.
All 14 passengers and two crew on board lost their lives on 1 April, 2009, when the Bond Super Puma came down.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said an indication of gear degradation was not recognised.
There was then a "catastrophic failure" of the main rotor gearbox as a result of a fatigue fracture.
Eight of the victims came from the north east of Scotland, seven from Liverpool, Norfolk and Worcestershire, and one from Latvia.
The report said a magnetic particle had been found on the chip detector in the gearbox of the Eurocopter Super Puma.
However, it was not recognised as an indication of the degradation of a part of the gearbox known as the second stage planet gear.
The AAIB said: "The use of verbal and email communication between the operator and manufacturer on 25 March led to a misunderstanding or miscommunication of the issue."
It was this second stage planet gear that failed just days later as a result of a fatigue crack.
The main rotor separated from the fuselage and the aircraft crashed into the sea as the helicopter was flying to Aberdeen from the Miller Platform.
The report said the captain had transmitted a mayday followed by the co-pilot.
"One second later, one of the flight crew uttered an expletive; this was the final radio transmission," the report added.
The report makes 17 safety recommendations.
Bill Munro, managing director of Bond Offshore Helicopters, said: "The manufacturer's procedures have been strengthened and Bond, along with others in the industry, implemented those changes immediately.
"We take a rigorous approach to safety and will continue to do so as technology and best practice evolve. Our company will also implement any further actions required by the industry which are issued by the authorities and manufacturer as a result of the report.
"Our thoughts remain with the families of those who died, and their loss is a constant driver in our commitment to the highest standards of safety in all our operations."
Eurocopter said it remained committed to working closely with the regulatory authorities, investigators and its operators to prevent the risk of accidents.
A Crown Office spokesperson said: "The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) welcomes the publication of the report on this tragic incident by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, following a technically complex and challenging investigation.
"The findings contained therein will now be fully considered by the health and safety division of COPFS.
"The division and Grampian Police have been engaged in this investigation since the tragedy occurred and will continue to progress lines of inquiry and carry out such investigation as is necessary in order that a decision may be taken in relation to the form of any proceedings.
"The liaison with the nearest relatives of the 16 men who lost their lives will also continue and the division will keep them advised of significant developments."
The two crew who died were Captain Paul Burnham, 31, of Methlick, Aberdeenshire, and co-pilot Richard Menzies, 24, of Droitwich Spa, who worked for Bond Offshore Helicopters.
The KCA Deutag employees killed were Brian Barkley, 30, of Aberdeen; Vernon Elrick, 41, of Aberdeen; Leslie Taylor, 41, of Kintore, Aberdeenshire; Nairn Ferrier, 40, of Dundee; Gareth Hughes, 53, of Angus; David Rae, 63, of Dumfries; Raymond Doyle, 57, of Cumbernauld; James John Edwards, 33, of Liverpool; Nolan Goble, 34, of Norwich, and Mihails Zuravskis, 39, of Latvia.
The other victims were James Costello, 24, of Aberdeen, who was contracted to Production Services Network (PSN); Alex Dallas, 62, of Aberdeen, who worked for Sparrows Offshore Services; Warren Mitchell, 38, of Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire, who worked for Weatherford UK; and Stuart Wood, 27, of Aberdeen, who worked for Expro North Sea Ltd.