UPDATE 1-Puma helicopters given all-clear to fly North Sea again

Thu Aug 29, 2013 5:05pm EDT
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By Belinda Goldsmith

LONDON Aug 29 (Reuters) - A British safety group on Thursday ended a six-day suspension of flights by Super Puma helicopters in the North Sea, imposed after four oil rig contractors were killed in a crash last week.

Although the cause of last Friday's fatal accident near Scotland's Shetland Islands remains unknown, the Helicopter Safety Steering Group (HSSG) said there was no evidence to continue a suspension on flights put in place on Saturday.

The grounding of all types of Super Puma helicopters, which make up about half of a 75-strong fleet used to carry workers to and from UK offshore platforms, left North Sea operators trying to find alternative ways of transporting staff and supplies.

HSSG spokesman Les Linklater said several aviation authorities, a pilots' union and helicopter operators themselves had expressed confidence in the aircraft made by Eurocopter, a unit of Europe's top aerospace group EADS.

He said three types of Super Pumas - L, L1 and EC225s - would return immediately to service but the Super Puma L2 model involved in Friday's fatal crash would initially be re-introduced for non-passenger operations only.

"There is no evidence to support a continuation of the temporary suspension of the entire Super Puma fleet," Linklater said in a statement following a two-day meeting.

The crash was the fifth accident in four years in the area involving different models of Super Pumas which included a fatal crash of an L2 in April 2009 in which 16 people were killed.   Continued...