Following a year-long probe into accidents involving Airbus Group (EADSY) helicopters used for North Sea oil operations, the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority (:CAA) has demanded upgrades to new and existing models in order to minimize the vulnerability of these aircrafts to malfunctions.
The CAA’s independent evaluation was incited by 25 offshore crashes in the past 2 decades, including two high-profile accidents in 2012, involving Airbus EC225 models. The U.K. regulator recommended new designs to safeguard users who rely on offshore helicopter flights.
Airbus witnessed two high-profile fatal crashes on AS332 medium-sized, twin-engined helicopter off Shetland and a police EC135 light, twin-engined helicopter on a pub in Glasgow, in addition to other non-fatal incidents involving EC225 offshore fleet of rotorcraft.
Preliminary studies indicated that the malfunction was caused by a crack in the gear shaft. After exhaustive investigation into the root cause, Airbus concluded that the crack resulted from assorted factors that collectively weakened fatigue strength of the vertical shaft in the main gearbox. Combating a heavy setback in terms of cost and confidence of operators, Airbus returned most of the EC225 fleet with a temporary fix. Exhibiting its commitment to technological advancement, Airbus increased safety through greater automation and reduction of crew workload in its new EC175 medium-sized, twin-engined helicopter. As an interim safety measure, until the recommendations are implemented and all helicopters are fitted with flotation or emergency breathing equipment, helicopter capacity will be restricted from June to ensure each passenger is next to an emergency exit.