AN INVESTIGATION into why a helicopter ditched in the North Sea last month could continue into 2013 to allow for detailed testing of a faulty gearbox.

All 19 people on the Super Puma were rescued after it was forced to land off the Shetland Islands on October 22. The incident occurred after a similar ditching in May off Aberdeen, and caused widespread disruption for offshore oil and gas workers. In a bulletin, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch pointed to a part in the gearbox on the EC225 and L2 models which cracked in both incidents.

The report identified the bevel gear vertical shaft as the component that cracked due to metal fatigue, but testing has failed to establish why.

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