The brief first official statement on the 23 August Super Puma accident at Sumburgh shows that it was not a re-run of the April 2009 event in which the main rotor head detached.
The Air Accident Investigation Branch says it believes the aircraft hit the water intact and upright, but that it turned over rapidly after settling in the sea. The agency says: “The approach proceeded normally until approximately three miles from the runway when there was a reduction in airspeed accompanied by an increased rate of descent.” It came down about 2nm short of the threshold of Sumburgh’s runway 09. The AAIB says it does not know the cause.
The bad news is that the strong local sea currents have dashed the wreckage against the shore rocks, breaking it up and making the AAIB’s task of finding out what happened much harder. The good news (this is an amendment to the original post because of news just in) that the Board has just found the voice and flight data recorder and it is being flown to the agency’s Farnborough base for downloading .
The longer the AAIB takes to find out the basic cause of what is either a failure of power delivery to the main rotor or a crew tactical decision to reduce the power for directional control reasons, the more difficult it will be to make a decision about whether to allow the grounded Super Puma fleet to get airborne again.
Meanwhile the oil rig workers who use the helicopters for getting to work are becoming more vocal about the crowded conditions in the cabin and the difficulty for those not next to the window exits of getting out, especially if the helicopter turns over and fills with water.