Bond Helicopters EC225 Super Puma crash – first bulletin

BBC pic of Bond tailcone.jpg

The UK AAIB has finally put out an initial bulletin on the happily non-fatal loss of the Bond Helicopters Eurocopter EC225 Super Puma in the North Sea last month. Most of it confirms the semi-official version of events which has been pretty well-circulated in the offshore helicopter community. But there’s some very interesting additional information.

(Please note that at the time of this posting, the report is not expected to be hosted on the AAIB site – I’ll link to it as soon as it’s ready in the morning.) It’s now here.

This CFIT accident, in which the aircraft flew fairly gently into thesea on final approach, incidentally involved a 17,200hr commander – with 198hr “on type”.

Letme be clear here – the AAIB at this stage has produced a purely factualreport and the points I’m making are my own. Do be sure to read theoriginal. (I’ve also never piloted a helicopter and have onlysuperficial knowledge of North Sea operations.)

Here’s the new bit. On the transit out to the rig the aircraft wascruising at 5,500ft AMSL and received a terrain avoidance warningsystem (TAWS) “caution caption illuminate” which cleared after a fewseconds. The AAIB says: “This caption (not recorded on the FDR)indicating there was a malfunction in the TAWS equipment.”

The report relates how the crew later set the radio altimeter warning bug toa height of 150ft before the final approach. And it explains: “Descentbelow 150ft generates an audio voice warning of ‘CHECK HEIGHT’. Thiswarning can be suspended to prevent activation. A second audio voiceheight warning of ‘ONE HUNDRED FEET’, which cannot be suspended, isautomatically activated by TAWS when descending through a height of100ft radio altitude.”

Now – jump to the end of the report – and there is this: “During areview of the recorded data from the accident flight no ‘ONE HUNDREDFEET’ audio voice warning was evident. This callout cannot be suspendedand it was clearly audible in the recording of the landing at the endof the previous flight.

“Furthermore there was no evidence of a ‘CHECK HEIGHT’ callout,although the position of the switch which is used to suppress thisfunction was not a recorded parameter. No warning parameters weretriggered and no alerts were evident in the audio recordings.”

So, we shall perhaps never know what the position of that switch was,but nevertheless there is the mystery of the missing ONE HUNDRED FEET’call-out.

I’m not qualified to comment on the precise importance of either ofthose call-outs and what their unexpected absence would mean to a NorthSea crew. But I’m quite sure that their absence should significantlychange one’s view of this accident.

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4 Responses to Bond Helicopters EC225 Super Puma crash – first bulletin

  1. M.G. April 8, 2009 at 9:03 am #

    You might want to check the crew hours you have quoted.
    17200 for the commander can not be correct.

  2. Kieran Daly April 14, 2009 at 5:41 pm #

    I checked with AAIB. It’s correct. I don’t know whether that includes any fixed-wing. Pretty amazing number if it’s all rotary, I agree

  3. Rod Johnson April 17, 2009 at 12:23 pm #

    This would indicate a failure of the radalt, as the TAWS and the AVAD both use radalt information. Doesn’t stop the pressure altimeter working though!

  4. SG April 18, 2009 at 4:36 pm #

    I still think the pilot has a big part to play? Being one of the passengers, when we disembarked the chopper into the liferafts, my friend and I couldnt believe we were so far 500 meters. Yes it was foggy but not to the extent of missing the helideck that is approx 160 feet from the water. The rig was was covered with a light mist, but not that bad that we couldnt see it? Still wondering if we will get the full truth in the future??

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