The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) is investigating an incident that occurred July 23 when a Cougar helicopter deviated from its normal flight path shortly after take-off from the White Rose production ship.
The altitude of the Sikorsky S-92A helicopter increased, then decreased. The crew stabilized the helicopter into a hover position, carried out equipment checks and continued the flight to St. John’s without further incident. No injuries were reported among the seven people — five offshore workers and two pilots — on board the helicopter.
“We are investigating and we have deployed one investigator,” said Julie LeRoux, media relations officer with the TSB.
“He’s collecting data and proceeding with interviews.”
The independent agency is investigating the causes and contributing factors that led to the helicopter incident.
“In this case, we have decided to do a Class 3 investigation, which means that we’re going to do an investigation report,” said LeRoux.
“Although there might be safety action, we will probably not do recommendations when it’s a Class 3.”
In the case of the 2009 helicopter crash off Newfoundland that killed 17 people, the TSB issued four recommendations.
The TSB has five occurrence classifications, ranging from a Class 1 public inquiry to Class 5, which is data collection for future analysis.
The offshore regulator said the helicopter was returned to service a day after the July 23 incident.
“The helicopter was … taken out of service, inspected, verified to be airworthy and returned to service the following day,” said an incident bulletin issued Thursday by the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB).
“Husky has informed the CNLOPB the Cougar Helicopters’ investigation into the incident is ongoing and Cougar has taken remedial action to prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future.”
When asked what “remedial action” was taken by Cougar, White Rose operator Husky Energy referred the question to the helicopter company.
Messages left with Cougar Helicopters Thursday were not returned.
When the CNLOPB issued a bulletin last month, it described the July 23 incident this way: “On departure from the SeaRose, the aircraft encountered an unplanned increase in pitch and altitude, followed by a decrease in altitude.”
No details were provided about how much altitude the helicopter gained and lost once it took off from the production ship, SeaRose.
“That’s all part of the investigation,” said Trevor Pritchard, Husky’s general manager of operations.
He said Cougar Helicopters briefed Husky officials Monday on its investigation of the incident.
“There’s a flight profile,” said Pritchard. “So they work to that profile as the helicopter comes off the deck and goes down a little bit, goes up a little bit and then continues on in flight.
“There was a deviation from that profile. It’s as much as we can give at this moment in time.”
Pritchard said the flight profile deviation “is obviously being deemed a fairly significant enough event to get the TSB involved.”
While the CNLOPB has no role in licensing or regulating aircraft or pilots, the board said it does apply “additional oversight in the event of serious incidents such as this one.”
The CNLOPB said it will receive early notification of the TSB’s investigation findings.
“Our role is to review the operators’ plans and actions … and to make sure when incidents like this happen that they’re taking the appropriate action to prevent it from happening again,” said Sean Kelly, spokesman for the CNLOPB.
“Obviously, our concern is the passengers.”