NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Ditched Super Puma pilots 'feared gearbox problem'

A helicopter ditched in the sea off Shetland after the pilots feared there was a problem with the aircraft's gearbox, it has emerged.

Manufacturer Eurocopter said the crew had reported that their control panel indicated a possible fault.

The aircraft, operated by CHC, ditched in the North Atlantic on Monday. All 19 on board escaped injury.

The helicopter was brought into Peterhead in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The Super Puma EC 225 was taken ashore by the support vessel Olympic Zeus.

The helicopter will now be taken for examination by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).

The crew of another Super Puma helicopter ditched in the North Sea in May, as a result of a false warning over the lubrication system, a report said earlier this month.

All 14 passengers and crew involved in the incident, about 30 miles east of Aberdeen, were rescued.

Jean-Pierre Dedieu, who is heading the Eurocopter team in Aberdeen to investigate the cause, told BBC Scotland: "We have now to investigate in more detail.

"We do not know yet if it is similar to previous ditching cases."

'What's going on'

He added: "This helicopter is one of the safest in the world."

Jake Molloy, of the RMT union, said "There has to be a public outcry over the indication of yet another gearbox problem.

"Eurocopter and the AAIB have got to tell us what's going on."

A meeting of the Helicopter Safety Steering Group was held in Aberdeen on Wednesday.

The group is made up of senior figures from the oil and gas industry and union representatives.

The Unite union has questioned whether the make of Super Puma aircraft is "fit for purpose".

CHC, Bristow and Bond have delayed operations of EC 225 and L2 Super Pumas, during the investigation.

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