EASA "comfortable" with Super Puma fleet flying again

AvatarBy Thierry Dubois | October 11, 2016

Estimated reading time 3 minutes, 47 seconds.

A European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) executive this morning reaffirmed the agency’s comfort in its decision to authorize the Airbus Helicopters AS332 L2 Super Pumas and EC225 LP (H225) to fly again, despite the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and its Norwegian counterpart maintaining their grounding directives for the types.

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A European Aviation Safety Agency executive has reaffirmed the agency’s comfort in its decision to authorize the Airbus Helicopters AS332 L2 Super Pumas and EC225 LP (H225) to fly again, despite the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority and its Norwegian counterpart maintaining their grounding directives for the types. Airbus Helicopters Photo

The offshore European AS332 L2 and H225 fleet has been grounded following the fatal crash of an H225 on April 29 in Turøy, Norway, which claimed the lives of all 13 on board. EASA lifted the flight prohibition on Friday, Oct. 7, and Ricardo Génova Galván, the agency’s flight standards director, said the end of the grounding involved several risk-reduction measures.

Speaking during a seminar organized by the European Helicopter Association at the Helitech International 2016 show in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Génova said, “We felt comfortable authorizing the fleet to fly again. He added that while the root cause is not fully understood, “we have identified where the problem is and analysis shows the probability of a similar accident is quite low. We live in a business where the only certainty is, ‘if you are sure, you don’t fly’; but we have to fly.”

Ricardo Génova Galván, EASA flight standards director,
Ricardo Génova Galván, EASA flight standards director, emphasizes the end of the grounding involves several risk-reduction measures. Thierry Dubois Photo

According to EASA and Airbus, the likely cause of the Turøy accident relates to “the rupture of the second-stage planet gear,” which was found with fatigue and surface degradation. There are two configurations of planet gear within the current type design. The main way to slash risk is replacing the accident type with the other one. “In-depth review of the design and service data showed [the former] has higher operating stress levels that result in more frequent events of spalling, associated with rolling contact fatigue, while [the latter] exhibits better reliability behavior,” EASA said in the Airworthiness Directive that ended the flight prohibition on Friday.

In addition, “we reduced life limit of the gear, we brought down values of the volume and size of particles and we shrank inspection intervals for chips,” Génova said. Therefore, he said, an acceptable level of safety can be restored.

Immediately after EASA announced it was reauthorizing flights, the U.K. CAA confirmed that its existing restriction, prohibiting all commercial flying of the type by U.K. operators, is to remain in place. The Norwegian CAA took the same stance. Both agencies say they “now await further information from the accident investigation before considering any future action.”

Airbus said it is assisting its customers to help them return their aircraft to service. “We maintain our full support to AIBN [in] the ongoing investigation,” the manufacturer added.

 

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1 Comment

  1. “We live in a business where the only certainty is, ‘if you are sure, you don’t fly’; but we have to fly.”

    “…but we have to fly.”

    I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that statements. It’s like saying “…the probability of a similar accident is quite low…”

    ‘quite low’ means very possible given enough time.

    All I can say is I’m glad I don’t have to make a decision regarding my job whether to fly or not to fly in this thing. Why risk it?

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