N.Sea helicopter crew did not notice loss of speed until too late -report


(Corrects "casual" to "causal" in 8th par)

LONDON, Oct 21 (Reuters) - The crew of a helicopter thatcrashed in the North Sea near Scotland's Shetland Islands didnot notice the aircraft had been slowing until it was too late,a British air safety investigation team said.

Four oil rig contractors were killed when a Super Puma L2,made by EADS's Eurocopter subsidiary, crashed into thesea off Shetland's rocky southern coast on Aug. 23.

The helicopter, carrying 16 passengers and two crew, wasoperated by CHC Helicopter for France's Total and was heading to Sumburgh airport in Shetland.

In a report published on Friday, the Air AccidentInvestigation Branch (AAIB) said the aircraft had reduced itsairspeed during its descent with the intention to maintain it ata certain level, but the helicopter had continued to lose speed,which went "unobserved by the crew".

"At some point the commander saw the sea, but he was unableto arrest the helicopter's descent and it struck the surfaceshortly thereafter," the report said.

CHC said that its pilot training followed strict regulationsand industry standards and the airmen involved in the accidentwere well-trained and experienced, adding that it would notspeculate on outcomes until the investigation was complete.

"The bulletin tells us what happened but not yet why ithappened. We all want to understand why this happened and thiswill be a significant part of the ongoing investigation," CHC'sVice President of Safety and Quality, Duncan Trapp, said.

The AAIB repeated that it had found no evidence of a causaltechnical failure, a statement it first made on Sept. 5, andsaid the continuing investigation would focus on the operationalaspects of the flight.

The crash was the fifth accident in four years in the areainvolving different models of Super Pumas, including a fatalcrash of an L2 in April 2009 in which 16 people were killed. (Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by David Goodman)

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