Statoil completes helicopter crash investigation

Norwegian oil giant Statoil has completed an investigation into the fatal helicopter accident in April this year that saw a helicopter carrying workers from a Statoil platform back to land crash into Turøy island, near Bergen. All 13 passengers and pilots in a CHC Super Puma helicopter died.

The helicopter was flying from Statoil-operated Gullfaks B platform to Flesland when the Main Rotor Head (MRH) and mast suddenly detached from an Airbus Helicopters H225-type helicopter, reported Offshore Energy Today

As a result of that event all civil usage Airbus H225 Super Puma helicopters were grounded, a ban that remains in place. Some have suggested that this helicopter type might never fly again, at least in the civil aviation sector.

Accident Investigation Board Norway (AIBN) found that the accident was probably a result of a fatigue fracture in one of the eight-second stage planet gears. That fracture developed in a manner that was unlikely to be detected by existing mandatory or supplementary systems for warning of an imminent failure, AIBN said.

Statoil’s in-house investigation aimed to identify measures to improve Statoil’s helicopter safety work and to learn from the emergency response to the accident. Statoil said Friday that its investigation indicated that the helicopter safety work of Statoil was good. Statoil said that the possible introduction in Norway of common

European safety requirements would change the risk picture associated with helicopter operations.

Statoil chief operating officer Anders Opedal said that Statoil would “follow up on the recommendations given by the investigation to enhance Statoil’s helicopter safety and emergency response. Our clear ambition is to maintain our leading role in further developing and enhancing the existing helicopter safety standard. The report provides a good basis for ensuring an optimal organization and holistic approach to this”.

Statoil executive vice president for Development and Production Norway, Arne Sigve Nylund, noted that “the Turøy accident was a tragedy for all those affected, and for the seven companies that lost close colleagues. It is essential that everyone working offshore can be confident in helicopter transportation. We will now, together with the oil and gas industry, government authorities, helicopter operators, and union representatives use findings in the report to further improve safety”.

Statoil says its investigation concluded that Statoil’s emergency response to the Turøy helicopter accident, from mobilization on the morning of the accident on Friday 29th April 2016 to demobilization on the morning of Monday 2nd May 2016, was in the main considered good.

On matters relating to helicopter safety and emergency response, the internal investigation found that:

1) Efforts to see connections between possible contributory factors needed to be improved. A clearer aviation safety strategy and plan needed to be developed.

2) There were many players involved in the organization of helicopter safety efforts in Statoil, resulting in an inconsistent understanding of any one individual’s role. Although there had been no indication thus far that this had impacted the quality of the helicopter safety work, the investigation team recommended that Statoil review helicopter safety work organization, simplifying roles and providing a clear description of roles.

3) Statoil should look at how to enable better interaction and information sharing between helicopter operators and helicopter manufacturers.

4) Statoil should look at whether aviation safety efforts should emphasize impact mitigation measures to an even greater extent.

On matters relating to the emergency response, Statoil found that:

1) There should be more emergency response exercises with external partners in order to ensure efficient coordination.

2) Access to the personnel logistics system (DaWinci) should be adjusted automatically to the roles in the emergency response organization and had to be kept up-to-date.

3) Travellers at heliports should be told as soon as possible of the situation and current state of affairs.

4) Communication handling procedures and systems needed to be reviewed, particularly addressing the need to communicate important information to the general public as soon as possible. (Statoil statement) (pdf)