Offshore Helicopter Safety Update & Airbus Survey

Circular No: NP/0103/17


HO ref: S2/4 S2/6

30th June 2017

Dear Colleagues

Update on offshore helicopter safety and Airbus survey

Further to circular no.250/16 of 17th October 2016, I write to update members on the current status of the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) ban on Super Puma model helicopters in the offshore oil and gas sector.

After the fatal incident off the Norwegian coast on 29th April last year, the ban on the use of Airbus 225 and AS332-L2 Super Puma models to transport workers in the UK and Norwegian offshore oil and gas sectors remains in place. A report from Norwegian air accident investigators was released on the first anniversary of this tragic incident. This found the cause to be fatigue in the gearbox mechanism but could not establish why this mechanical problem had not been picked up. As a result, the Norwegian investigation is still underway in order to establish the root cause of this latest fatal incident involving a Super Puma helicopter. It is worth repeating that the CAA ban on Super Pumas in the UK sector remains effective.

Earlier this week, the Super Puma 225 manufacturer, Airbus circulated an online survey to offshore oil and gas workers on the subject of helicopter transport. As part of the Offshore Co-ordinating Group (OCG), your union has worked with Industri Energi of Norway in preparing and agreeing the following statement on the Airbus survey:

‘The UK offshore Trade Unions (Unite, GMB, RMT, Balpa and Nautilus), which form the “Offshore Coordinating Group” (OCG) and our colleagues from Industri Energi in Norway, are all surprised that Airbus has opted to run this survey. All of the Trade Unions representing offshore workers are very well aware of the workforce and passenger views about helicopter safety through our regular meetings and surveys conducted on this issue. The Trade Unions have had significant feedback about the specific aircraft featured in this survey, the H225, or the ‘Super Puma’ as most offshore workers refer to it.

‘We are also disappointed that Airbus felt the need to run a question which asks about the importance of certain factors, and specifically the “opinion” of the Trade Unions.  As Trade Unions we only ever express the “opinion” of our members and in this case those members are offshore oil and gas workers. Airbus appear to imply by inclusion of questions structured in this way that the Trade Union “opinion” does not reflect the views of those we represent.  Had we been consulted by Airbus about the structure of the questions we would have opposed this approach and a number of other questions which have been included.  
‘Nevertheless, the survey is now live and open to workers across the North Sea so we will be actively encouraging our respective members to participate and to register their views on this critically important issue.  In doing so, we would sincerely hope that Airbus openly and transparently shares the feedback received.  Indeed, we would suggest that an independent body be appointed to collate and produce the findings for all stakeholders and especially for the group the survey is targeted at – offshore oil and gas workers.’

All RMT offshore workers, as the ‘people in the back’ of helicopters in the offshore industry, are encouraged to respond to this survey, particularly the request for comments on the 225 Super Puma model in question 8. The survey is available here:

I would appreciate it if you could bring this circular to the attention of all Branch members and you will be kept updated with further developments.

Yours sincerely

Mick Cash
General Secretary