Crash grounds Airbus’ fleet

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Airbus Helicopters, which produced the H225 model that crashed near Bergen on Friday, has halted all passenger flights on similar models worldwide until the cause of the crash has been determined. The doomed helicopter returning from Statoil’s Gullfaks B oil field lost its rotary blades before plunging into the sea.

It was an Airbus helicopter like this one that crashed near Bergen on Friday, carrying 11 offshore workers and two crew members on their way back from Statoil's Gullfaks B oil field in the North Sea. All were killed. PHOTO: Airbus Helicopters

It was an Airbus helicopter like this one that crashed near Bergen on Friday, carrying 11 offshore workers and two crew members on their way back from Statoil’s Gullfaks B oil field in the North Sea. All were killed. PHOTO: Airbus Helicopters

The Airbus Airbus H225 helicopter is said to be one of the helicopters most commonly used to transport workers to and from offshore oil field installations. The helicopter flying from Statoil’s oil field on Friday was piloted by two crew members and carrying 11 workers from a variety of oil and offshore firms when it crashed at Turøy outside Bergen. All on board were killed.

Airbus announced during the night that it still had no information “that allows us to understand the causes of the accident that involved the aircraft’s rotor being detached, nor to make any links to events that have occurred previously.” The company reported that two “technical experts” were on their way to Norway to offer assistance to local authorities investigating the cause of the crash. Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet reported Friday night that the helicopter’s two so-called “black boxes” that record flight data and the pilots’ conversations had been recovered.

Airbus describes its H225, earlier known as the EC225, as especially suitable for “tough environments and long distance” transport. It was nonetheless putting all passenger flights of the model, also the commercial EC225LP, “on hold” until the cause of the “tragic” technical problem was known.

‘We share the pain’
Officials at Airbus also reported that all its staff were “deeply affected” by the crash that has shocked Norway’s oil and offshore industry. “We share the pain of the families, friends and colleagues of the victims,” Airbus wrote in its statement on the accident in Norway.

Search and rescue crews worked through the night to recover the last remaining body in the seas off the coast at Turøy, a small island community that also was in shock heading into the weekend. “We have lost people at sea, but we have never experienced a tragedy like this,” community leader Jan Bjarte Kjelby told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN).

Kjelby’s own wife had seen the helicopter fly low over their home and then crash on an otherwise quiet spring day. The weather was unusually good in an area known for its storms. DN reported that the skies were clear and there was no wind.

Police and crisis teams were sent to the island, where emergency crews were bringing the bodies of victims onto the pier. The victims were employed by a variety of companies working for Statoil on the Gullfaks field, and included 11 Norwegians, one British citizen and one Italian. The helicopter was operated by CHC Helikopter Service.

‘A sorrowful day’
Prime Minister Erna Solberg was among those expressing grief and offering condolences. “This is a sorrowful day,” Solberg said on Friday. “Our thoughts go to all those who work on the Norwegian fields, and to all those who have lost their loved ones. You are not alone in your grief.”

Solberg noted that it had been “a long time” since Norway experienced a serious accident involving offshore oil workers, who are employed in the country’s largest and most important industry that also has been battered the past two years by the dive in oil prices.

Solberg, who’s from Bergen herself, was flying back to the area late Friday and planned to visit the center set up to help take care of victims’ families and others affected by the crash.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund