Oilworkers are shipped home

Ditched Super Puma helicopter being taken to Aberdeen as it passes through Peterhead
Ditched Super Puma helicopter being taken to Aberdeen as it passes through Peterhead

AN OPERATION is continuing following last week’s helicopter ditching off Shetland to relieve the backlog of oilworkers required to travel on and offshore.

Some oil and gas companies are now transferring workers by boat.

It comes after hundreds of staff were stranded when all Super Puma helicopters were suspended following an EC225 model making a controlled landing on the sea 14 miles from Fair Isle last Monday.

The aircraft was operated by CHC Helicopters, which along with Bristow and Bond, halted all Super Puma flights prior to a Civil Aviation Authority restriction order being imposed.

Nine Super Pumas were later reinstated but 25 aircraft remained unavailable.

The grounding led to a build up of workers waiting to travel on and offshore. Union leaders are concerned about the safety implications of transferring workers by basket, or billy pugh, from boats.

An initial Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) report into the ditching revealed a serious gearbox failure.

Seventeen oilworkers and two pilots were picked up safely by a fast rescue craft.

The Super Puma EC225 had been on its way from Aberdeen on a Total-operated flight to the West Phoenix drilling rig.

A rescue operation was launched involving three RNLI lifeboats from Kirkwall in Orkney, and Aith and Lerwick in Shetland. Twelve of the men were flown to Kirkwall and the remaining seven were taken to Sumburgh.

The incident was the fourth involving a Super Puma in just over three years. In May this year all 14 passengers and crew on a Bond-operated Super Puma were rescued after it ditched around 30 miles off Aberdeen.

Sixteen people died when a Super Puma, also operated by Bond, plunged into the sea in April, 2009. The helicopter has been returning from the BP Miller platform when it went down off the Aberdeenshire coast.

It happened six weeks after another Bond Super Puma carrying 18 people came down on an approach to a production platform. All were rescued.

Eurocopter, the manufacturers of the EC225, have insisted the aircraft is safe.