A helicopter transporting offshore workers from the Henry Goodrich safely returned to the drill rig when the aircraft experienced “higher than normal vibration” shortly after take off at 9:25 a.m. Monday.
The Sikorsky S-92 helicopter, bound for St. John’s, was about 150 metres in the air when the unusual vibration was noticed by the pilots. They aborted the flight.
“In accordance with the regular operating protocols that Cougar (Helicopters) has in place, they immediately landed the helicopter safely on the Goodrich,” said Nancy Wicks, spokeswoman for Suncor Energy, operator of the Terra Nova oilfield.
“The helicopter landed without incident. All the passengers disembarked.”
The Henry Goodrich, which is drilling an exploration well for Suncor, is located on the Grand Banks about 350 kilometres east of St. John’s.
The number of passengers on the aborted flight is not yet known.
As well, it’s not certain how or when they’ll return to St. John’s — that will depend on weather offshore.
The alternative to travelling by helicopter is offshore supply ships.
The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) is monitoring the incident.
By late afternoon Monday, the CNLOPB said another helicopter was dispatched to the Henry Goodrich carrying two flight engineers who will assess the grounded aircraft.
“The helicopter is still on the deck of the Henry Goodrich,” said said Sean Kelly, spokesman for the CNLOPB.
That means the chopper won’t be able to land on the helideck and the engineers will be lowered to the rig by hoist, if weather permits.
Three search and rescue (SAR) technicians are also on board that flight to help lower the engineers to the rig and be available in case of an emergency.
The helicopter will land at another drill rig, GSF Grand Banks, which is located in the White Rose oilfield. There, it will refuel and wait for the engineers for about 30 minutes.
The engineers will download the flight data and assess whether they can make repairs to the grounded aircraft.
“If they can fix it tonight, they’ll fly it home tonight,” Kelly said.
If not, the engineers will either spend the night aboard the Henry Goodrich or be hoisted back onboard the other helicopter and return to St. John’s.
The CNLOPB said the offshore industry’s dedicated SAR helicopter was not operational briefly Monday afternoon, but it was up and running before the Cougar flight engineers headed offshore.
Unless that first-response SAR helicopter is available, no flights can occur offshore.
The CNLOPB is now posting helicopter incidents on its website: http://www.cnlopb.nl.ca/incident_bulletins.shtml.
Monday’s incident was the first posting.
“It’s a work in progress,” said Kelly.
Future helicopter incidents and updates will also be be posted on the CNLOPB website.