Ten reports in past year for chopper 'occurrences'

Rob Antle
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TRANSPORTATION Database lists minor and serious incidents

A Transport Canada aviation database lists Cougar Helicopters' Sikorsky S-92A choppers as being involved in 10 occurrence reports on or near Newfoundland's east coast in the past year.

Some of the Sikorsky occurences were minor, such as aborted takeoffs caused by a cargo door indicator and a minor mechanical problem.

A Transport Canada aviation database lists Cougar Helicopters' Sikorsky S-92A choppers as being involved in 10 occurrence reports on or near Newfoundland's east coast in the past year.

Some of the Sikorsky occurences were minor, such as aborted takeoffs caused by a cargo door indicator and a minor mechanical problem.

Others, however, appeared more serious, according to reports posted on the federal agency's website.

Those reports are entered into a database by Transport Canada "to provide initial information on occurrences" involving Canadian-registered aircraft, and in Canadian airspace.

The agency cautions that the information is preliminary, and subject to change. There were no injuries and no damage reported in any of the occurrences logged before this week.

On Thursday morning, a Cougar Sikorsky ditched in the North Atlantic 55 kilometres east of St. John's. There is one survivor, and one confirmed fatality. Sixteen other passengers and crew are presumed dead.

Transport Canada's initial report on Thursday's crash indicates that the chopper "declared mayday due to a main gear box oil pressure problem," before ditching less than 10 minutes later.

Among the other recent Cougar Sikorsky occurrences reported by Transport Canada:

on April 24, 2008, a Cougar helicopter en route from the Hibernia GBS to St. John's declared an emergency due to engine failure. The flight was 170 kilometres from St. John's; it landed safely. The crew had contacted Gander air-traffic control to advise they were declaring an emergency and had shut down one of the aircraft's two engines because of a "gear box chip light."

on Sept. 24, 2008, a Sikorsky 130 kilometres from St. John's - bound for the city from a Husky oil rig on the Grand Banks - declared "pan pan pan," a warning call about a potential emergency. Crash fire rescue (CFR) was requested at the destination; the chopper landed without further incident.

on Jan. 27, 2009, a Cougar S-92A chopper 90 kilometres southeast of St. John's en route to the Terra Nova oilfield requested to return to land on the advice of their maintenance crew. The pilot advised that an indicator light was on. No emergency was declared, and the helicopter landed without incident.

Prior to Thursday's crash, Cougar reported a sparkling safety record.

The company noted on its website that it had never had an accident in 10 years of operations - a span of more than 48,500 flight hours.

Cougar has flown Super Pumas and Sikorskys.

According to a Sikorsky news release, the S-92A was awarded its Canadian certification in 2005.

That Canadian certification followed European Aviation Safety Agency/Joint Aviation Authorities (EASA/JAA) certification in June 2004, and U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification in December 2002, Sikorsky said in a statement at the time.

The company said in 2005 the S-92A was the first helicopter in the world certified to the latest and most demanding U.S. safety regulations, while noting that Canadian and European standards were similar.

Between 2005 and 2007, the American FAA issued five airworthiness directives for the Sikorsky S-92A. Two of those directives dealt with the main gear box.

Such FAA directives serve as notices to aircraft owners and operators of a safety deficiency that needs to be fixed.

Meanwhile, Sikorsky announced just last month that it had inked an agreement with Cougar's parent company, VIH Aviation Group, authorizing VIH to repair and overhaul S-92A helicopter gear boxes.

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) will lead the crash investigation, assisted by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.

The U.S. team will also include technical advisors from the FAA, Sikorsky and General Electric, manufacturers of the aircraft's engines.

rantle@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Transport Canada, American FAA, Transportation Safety Board European Aviation Safety Agency/Joint Aviation Authorities U.S. Federal Aviation Administration VIH Aviation Group General Electric

Geographic location: St. John's, Newfoundland, U.S. Terra Nova

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Recent comments

  • MiChelle'
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    Let's hope We stand together TO get Honest Answers from Provincial, & Federal governments and Cougar!

  • Aijaz
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    I have friends on both Hibernia and Terra Nova offshore oil & gas production platforms. It makes me sick to think about the tragedy of Thursday Marth 12th. It will impact not only the business of ferrying workers to the oil rigs and production platforms, but to the relatively young offshore industry, the immediate families and the fellowship in brotherhood/sisterhood of offshore workers. Our thoughts and prayers should be with the affected families and with those who will continue to work offshore to benefit the economy of the province so deserve dastardly.

    May the Almighty God bless the departed soul and provide peace to them in heaven and heavenly comfort to the survivors of the victims. Amen!

    Aijaz

  • Chad
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    Unbelievable, obviously if the FAA flagged the gearbox there is a safety issue with it. Why did it take so long to have it repaired? Why was it never repaired? If a car you own has a recall you bring it to the dealership to be repaired right away, this was an aircraft that flew in the North Atlantic, if this does indeed turn out to be caused by a gearbox problem well it shows a company that has to answer a lot of questions as to why they were still flying with such a blatent disregard for an obvious major problem with the aircraft....

  • Allister
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    As a offshore worker for more than 30 years (no, don't ask me my age) one has to be concerned that it appears that the overhaul of the S-92 gear box may not have been completed as per the agreement listed in your article. If this is the case Sikorsky and VIH Aviation Group (Cougar) have some major (in my mind) legal and moral issues.
    My prayers go to the families of my fellow east coasters.

  • MiChelle'
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    Let's hope We stand together TO get Honest Answers from Provincial, & Federal governments and Cougar!

  • Aijaz
    July 01, 2010 - 20:07

    I have friends on both Hibernia and Terra Nova offshore oil & gas production platforms. It makes me sick to think about the tragedy of Thursday Marth 12th. It will impact not only the business of ferrying workers to the oil rigs and production platforms, but to the relatively young offshore industry, the immediate families and the fellowship in brotherhood/sisterhood of offshore workers. Our thoughts and prayers should be with the affected families and with those who will continue to work offshore to benefit the economy of the province so deserve dastardly.

    May the Almighty God bless the departed soul and provide peace to them in heaven and heavenly comfort to the survivors of the victims. Amen!

    Aijaz

  • Chad
    July 01, 2010 - 20:02

    Unbelievable, obviously if the FAA flagged the gearbox there is a safety issue with it. Why did it take so long to have it repaired? Why was it never repaired? If a car you own has a recall you bring it to the dealership to be repaired right away, this was an aircraft that flew in the North Atlantic, if this does indeed turn out to be caused by a gearbox problem well it shows a company that has to answer a lot of questions as to why they were still flying with such a blatent disregard for an obvious major problem with the aircraft....

  • Allister
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    As a offshore worker for more than 30 years (no, don't ask me my age) one has to be concerned that it appears that the overhaul of the S-92 gear box may not have been completed as per the agreement listed in your article. If this is the case Sikorsky and VIH Aviation Group (Cougar) have some major (in my mind) legal and moral issues.
    My prayers go to the families of my fellow east coasters.