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Experts move to reassure over offshore helicopters

Aviation experts have dismissed fears that offshore helicopters are inherently unsafe despite occupants facing a 10 times higher death rate than commercial air passengers.

Safety rates over the North Sea were "just as good" as in other comparable areas internationally, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) told MPs.

Over the past four years there have been five major offshore crashes - all involving Super Puma helicopters - prompting the CAA to issue a safety review.

Figures it published last month showed the chance of death on offshore helicopters was 10 times the rate of that for commercial jet aeroplanes.

Asked if that meant helicopter flights were "inherently unsafe", Mark Swan, director of the CAA safety, airspace and regulation group, told the Commons Transport select committee: "No, it doesn't mean that the helicopters are inherently unsafe.

"I can assure this committee if they were they wouldn't be flying."

Last August, a Super Puma L2 carrying oil rig workers ditched in the North Sea. Four people died and 14 survived. The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) found no evidence of any technical failure in this case.

A Super Puma EC225 helicopter plunged into the water off the Aberdeenshire coast claiming 16 lives in April 2009. A fatal accident inquiry held only last week concluded that the accident could have been prevented.

The committee was told there were different variants of helicopters that came under the name Super Puma.

Keith Conradi, chief of inspectors at the AAIB, said: "If you look globally I don't know of any information which suggests actually that the EC225 or any of the Super Pumas are any more likely to have an accident than any other type."

Contextual targeting label: 
Transport Tragedy

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