Hairline crack found in Cougar chopper

Moira Baird
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Transportation

Cougar Helicopters found a single, hairline crack in a main gearbox footing of a Sikorsky S-92A helicopter that flies workers in Newfoundland to and from the offshore oilfields.

The discovery was made Tuesday evening as part of Cougar's regular inspections of the footings after every flight.

Cougar Helicopters found a single, hairline crack in a main gearbox footing of a Sikorsky S-92A helicopter that flies workers in Newfoundland to and from the offshore oilfields.

The discovery was made Tuesday evening as part of Cougar's regular inspections of the footings after every flight.

Cougar operates four S-92As in the province - all on contract to offshore oil companies.

"I don't think that people should be concerned about this particular issue as it does not reduce safety in any way," said Christian Kittleson, communications director for VIH Aviation Group.

VIH is the British Columbia-based parent company of Cougar.

"We don't fly without 100 per cent confidence in the safe operation of the helicopter, and we have 100 per cent confidence in Sikorsky and the S-92 on this particular issue.

"Sikorsky has assured us that the crack in the mounting foot is considered benign and will not compromise the operational integrity of the gearbox."

Four mounting feet attach the main gearbox to the helicopter fuselage.

Sources say the crack was found in a right-hand mounting foot. The helicopter with the cracked footing was last used to fly workers to the Terra Nova production ship and the drill rig Henry Goodrich, which is operating in the White Rose oilfield.

The helicopter was grounded, pending the installation of a new main gearbox.

"We don't fly with any component that is not in pristine condition. Regardless of whether they consider it a benign condition or not, we immediately change out that gearbox," Kittleson said.

"Usually, the maintenance action on something like that is between two and three days."

Kittleson said it's the first time a helicopter in Cougar's fleet of S-92As based in St. John's has experienced a cracked footing.

But it's not a new problem for that model of helicopter.

In November, Cougar found a similar crack in an S-92A based in Nova Scotia. Prior to that, cracks in the mounting feet were found in almost a dozen S-92As in the North Sea.

Last fall, Sikorsky issued an alert service bulletin requiring all S-92A operators to do visual inspections of the main gearbox footings every 10 flight hours.

Cougar says it took those inspections a step further.

"Wherever practically possible, we exceed the standard," Kittleson said. "So we decided we would do the visual inspections after every flight regardless of whether that was within 10 hours or whether that was within one hour."

Directives to check the footings have also been issued by the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

On Oct. 23, EASA ordered "repetitive inspections" of the mounting feet daily or every 10 flight hours, whichever comes first.

It also warned the cracks could result in the main gearbox detaching - leading to a loss of control of the helicopter.

This week, EASA ordered inspections before the first flight of each day even after replacement of the main gearbox.

Kittleson said Sikorsky is engineering a more permanent solution to the problem.

The helicopter manufacturer could not be reached for comment by deadline Thursday.

mbaird@thetelegram.com

Organizations: European Aviation Safety Agency, VIH Aviation Group, U.S. Federal Aviation Authority

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Terra Nova, White Rose St. John's Nova Scotia North Sea

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Graham
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    Hairline or ropeline, it all ends with the same result - broken, but hairline sounds more palatable to the unknowing public. The question you have to ask is, did that fracture occur when YOU were flying over water, or when the chopper was sitting in the hangar. I'll let you answer that one.

  • Good Point
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    These helicopters are not safe if stuff like this happens during flight. A redesign, not an identical replacement part, is in order. Otherwise, it'll just happen again, but maybe next time there'll be no catching it during the PM schedule because it won't make it that far.

  • Give it
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    The point is the fault was located as part of the PM schedule thus preventing a repeat incident. At the end of the day this is what really matters, or would you suggest a complete tear down and inspection prior to each flight from either land or sea? I wonder how that would go over on the platforms with crying union members demanding to leave.

  • Graham
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    Hairline or ropeline, it all ends with the same result - broken, but hairline sounds more palatable to the unknowing public. The question you have to ask is, did that fracture occur when YOU were flying over water, or when the chopper was sitting in the hangar. I'll let you answer that one.

  • Good Point
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    These helicopters are not safe if stuff like this happens during flight. A redesign, not an identical replacement part, is in order. Otherwise, it'll just happen again, but maybe next time there'll be no catching it during the PM schedule because it won't make it that far.

  • Give it
    July 01, 2010 - 19:49

    The point is the fault was located as part of the PM schedule thus preventing a repeat incident. At the end of the day this is what really matters, or would you suggest a complete tear down and inspection prior to each flight from either land or sea? I wonder how that would go over on the platforms with crying union members demanding to leave.