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Norway unions in Super Puma ban call

Labour bodies criticise EASA over lifting of flights suspension ahead of findings from probe into fatal crash

Norwegian offshore unions have issued a concerted call to maintain the country’s ban on the use of Super Puma helicopters in the face of pressure from the European Union to reactivate grounded flights.

The 10 unions – including major labour bodies Industri Energi and Safe – have also criticised the recent decision by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to lift its ban on the use of the Airbus-manufactured EC225LP and AS332L2 in the wake of a fatal helicopter crash off Norway earlier this year.

Thirteen people, including 11 oil workers, lost their lives when the Super Puma EC225LP, operated by CHC Helicopter, crashed on a small island east of Turoy on Norway’s west coast on 29 April while en route to Bergen’s Flesland airport from Statoil’s Gullfaks B platform.

While EASA has lifted its Europe-wide ban on flights of the aircraft, the suspension remains in place in Norway and the UK pending the final results of a probe by the Accident Investigation Branch Norway.

Statoil has also decided to halt the use of Super Pumas for offshore flights amid mounting worker concerns over safety following a series of fatal accidents with the aircraft.

The unions said in a joint statement “many oil workers now fear they will be forced to fly in the same aircraft type” that crashed near Turoy and that “many cannot tolerate such a strain”.

“There is no longer any trust in the named Super Puma aircraft offshore,” they stated.

The unions are calling on other oil companies to ban the aircraft off Norway, stating both the industry and authorities must prioritise workers’ concerns over safety.

The labour bodies also believe it was premature for EASA to lift the flights suspension before the final results of the investigation are known, stating the decision is “incomprehensible at the present time” based on the preliminary findings of the probe.

Investigators said in their initial report the Turoy accident, in which the rotors of the aircraft became detached in mid-flight, was the result of a crack in a gearwheel caused by fatigue that could not have been found by existing systems for uncovering developing faults.

The unions said the EASA “had not implemented satisfactory measures” to address this issue prior to lifting its ban, and that the aviation authority should have maintained the suspension until the full investigation results are published and followed up with appropriate action.

They are demanding that Norway’s Civil Aviation Authority and Transport Ministry “reject every effort from EU to rescind the flight ban”.

Furthermore, the unions have echoed industry calls to reject new EU regulations that would open up Norway’s offshore sector to helicopter operators from European countries that would not be subject to the country’s stringent safety audits for aircraft operations, claiming it would “weaken safety”.

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