Super Puma fatal accident inquiry: 'Confusion' over metallic chip

The Super Puma before it crashed The Bond Super Puma came down off Peterhead, killing 16 men

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The location of a metallic chip in the gearbox of a Super Puma helicopter was the focus of confusion several days before it crashed into the North Sea, an inquiry has heard.

The Bond helicopter came down in April 2009, leaving all 16 men on board dead.

A fatal accident inquiry heard engineers at manufacturer Eurocopter were contacted for advice when the chip was detected.

It later emerged there had been confusion about the location.

Eurocopter directed Bond staff to follow a specific process outside the normal maintenance manual procedure.

Bond maintenance manager Ronald Wright said he had ordered additional checks because he said he did not want anything to be "overlooked".

Mr Wright told the inquiry that it was "not an unusual occurrence" to find a chip.

He said a metallic chip may be detected "once every six to eight weeks".

Asked by fiscal depute Geoffrey Main if finding the chip triggered a red alert, Mr Wright replied: "It didn't trigger alarm bells that something was fundamentally wrong with the gearbox."

Logs showed the helicopter underwent so-called "rotors running" checks.

Mr Wright told the sixth day of the FAI: "If I was on shift that day, I wouldn't have allowed that to happen."

Gear box failure

An Air Accidents Investigation Branch report blamed a catastrophic gear box failure for the crash, which happened 12 miles off Peterhead.

The two crew who died were Capt Paul Burnham, 31, of Methlick, Aberdeenshire, and co-pilot Richard Menzies, 24, of Droitwich Spa, who worked for Bond Offshore Helicopters.

The KCA Deutag employees killed were Brian Barkley, 30, of Aberdeen; Vernon Elrick, 41, of Aberdeen; Leslie Taylor, 41, of Kintore, Aberdeenshire; Nairn Ferrier, 40, of Dundee; Gareth Hughes, 53, of Angus; David Rae, 63, of Dumfries; Raymond Doyle, 57, of Cumbernauld; James John Edwards, 33, of Liverpool; Nolan Goble, 34, of Norwich, and Mihails Zuravskis, 39, of Latvia.

The other victims were James Costello, 24, of Aberdeen, who was contracted to Production Services Network (PSN); Alex Dallas, 62, of Aberdeen, who worked for Sparrows Offshore Services; Warren Mitchell, 38, of Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire, who worked for Weatherford UK; and Stuart Wood, 27, of Aberdeen, who worked for Expro North Sea Ltd.

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