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Chopper review

The Super Puma after it crashed off Shetland last month. Photo Peter Hutchison

NORTH Sea helicopter operations are to be reviewed by the Civil Aviation Authority after a spate of accidents culminating in last’s month’s fatal crash off Shetland.

The regulator is to work with sister organisations in Europe and Norway to examine the safety record of the offshore oil and gas industry’s flying regime, and report early next year.

The British Airline Pilot’s Association (BALPA) has criticised the move, saying the industry requires a full independent inquiry such as the one carried out by Lord Cullen following the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988.

The RMT transport union has also called for a full public inquiry into the Super Puma crash off Shetland.

CAA safety director Mark Swan said: “The recent accidents have understandably given rise to concerns, particularly with offshore workers who rely so heavily on these helicopter flights.

“We are absolutely committed to ensuring that operations are as safe as possible.

“The review we are announcing today will thoroughly examine the risks and hazards of operating in the North Sea and how these can be managed most effectively.”

Since February 2009 there have been five accidents involving Super Puma helicopters working for the offshore industry in the North Sea, two of which have been fatal.

Four people lost their lives in the crash of Shetland in August, and all 16 on board a helicopter that came down in the North Sea in April 2009 were killed.

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott welcomed the review, saying: “It is vital that we learn the wider lessons from recent helicopter accidents and that all is done to prevent future incidents, injury and loss of life.

“I feel it is especially important to look the best practice and safety records of other countries, including those in Scandinavia, to see what we can learn.

“The most recent helicopter ditching is a tragedy about which I have received a significant number of communications from local people who work offshore.

“I hope a thorough review will help to address their concerns and restore confidence in this sector.”