Super Puma investigation – one last chance for Eurocopter

UK investigators trying to puzzle out what caused the main gear box on that Bond Helicopters Eurocopter Super Puma to fail catastrophically have just confirmed that the task is proving every bit as tough as you might imagine. In a second ‘initial’ report they say that first it’s now clear that the mechanics were effectively already doing the enhanced inspections that Eurocopter and EASA have since recommended – but there still wasn’t adequate warning of the impending failure. And, to compound the situation, they still can’t work out what did cause it. You can see where this is going: we now have an aircraft that is usedon inherently risky operations which has just suffered an unexplainedcatastrophic failure with no immediate hope of it being explained. Whatdo you do? Plenty of people would say ground it, and the AAIB’s reporttoday makes it pretty clear that they’re beginning to think the sameway. Worse, they don’t distinguish between the L2 Super Puma of the typethat crashed and the newer EC225 version.

What they’ve actually done is effectively give Eurocopter one last chance. They’ve made the following urgent recommendation: Itis recommended that Eurocopter, with the European Aviation SafetyAgency (EASA), develop and implement an inspection of the internalcomponents of the main rotor gearbox epicyclic module for all AS332L2and EC225LP helicopters as a matter of urgency to ensure the continuedairworthiness of the main rotor gearbox. This inspection is in additionto that specified in EASA Emergency Airworthiness Directive2009-0087-E, and should be made mandatory with immediate effect by anadditional EASA Emergency Airworthiness Directive.”

It’s that phrase “to ensure the continued airworthiness of the main rotor gearbox” that is the kicker. For “main rotor gearbox” read “helicopter”.

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2 Responses to Super Puma investigation – one last chance for Eurocopter

  1. Mike Rogers April 17, 2009 at 7:04 pm #

    AAIB Bulletin No: 8/2004 Ref: EW/C2003/02/06 Super Puma G-JSAR incudes a photo of a disintegrating tranfer gear in the left hand accessory module, and a photo of a previous incident G-PUMS where the gear completely disintegrated.

    The report goes on to state: “The fact that the MGB and the accessory modules share the same oil system could result in potentially serious contamination problems, thereby constituting a flight safety hazard”.

    Sufficient, I would have thought, to ground all Super Pumas at that time.

  2. Thomas Hussey April 27, 2009 at 3:59 pm #

    Our Chief Engineer, one of America’s preminent fastener experts believes it’s just one more example of “Faulty Fasteners” made off the expired 1965 APM-Hexseal patent. He states “these are a receipe for failure”, the biggest problem is they don’t tell you ahead when they’re going to fail… but in all liklihood they will. Check out his latest article in American Fastener Journal, “The past, present and future of self-sealing fasteners” by Larry J. Bogatz.

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