The findings of the Fatal Accident Inquiry into a 2009 helicopter crash in the North Sea were announced today following a six week inquiry in January, heard in Aberdeen.

On 1 April 2009, the Super Puma helicopter AS332 L2 G-REDL crashed into the North Sea while returning to Aberdeen from the BP Miller platform, causing the deaths of all 16 men on board.  In March 2013, Crown Counsel decided that criminal proceedings would not take place due to insufficient evidence.

In October 2011, the Department of Transport’s Air Accident Investigation Branch published an extensive report into the accident.  On the basis that no party to the Inquiry questioned the technical data within that report, the Inquiry was limited to two key questions: (1) why did the accident happen; and (2) what has been done and, if appropriate, what more can be done to avoid such an accident happening again?  Having heard all the evidence, Sheriff Principal Derek Pyle, presiding over the Inquiry concluded that on the balance of probabilities the spalling in the gearbox was the probable cause of the accident.

Bond Offshore Helicopters Ltd, owners of the helicopter, admitted to three maintenance and inspection failures prior to the crash:

  1. Failure to follow the maintenance manual procedure upon discovery of a metal particle on the helicopter’s epicyclic chip detector.
  2. Failure to ensure communications with the manufacturer were carried out in a manner complying with protocol, causing a misunderstanding between the parties.
  3. Failure to identify the nature and substance of the metal particle on 25 March 2009 which may have prevented the failure to follow the maintenance manual.

The Sheriff Principal concluded that though it had not been proved that the accident would not have occurred in absence of one or more of these failures, it remained a possibility.

The following recommendations were also made:

  • The European Aviation Safety Agency’s proposals to improve the ability to avoid catastrophic failures of primary structures should be introduced as soon as possible.
  • Alternative methods of oil analysis of Super Puma helicopters should be considered.
  • Research and development into reducing the risk of spalling in helicopter gearboxes should be considered.