Sikorsky settles with survivor, families of Cougar S-92A crash victims

Washington DC
Source: Flightglobal.com
This story is sourced from Flightglobal.com

Sikorsky has reached out-of-court settlements with the lone survivor and families of the 17 passengers and crew killed in the crash of an oil industry S-92A off the coast of Newfoundland in March 2009. The company is not revealing details of the settlements, other than to say that “all of the claims in regard to the Cougar Flight 491 crew and passengers have been resolved.”

 
 Reconstruction of Flight 491 by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada

Named in a lawsuit (shown below) filed in Philadelphia by the lone survivor and 15 other passengers were Sikorsky, its parent company, United Technologies, and its S-92A final assembly centre in Pennsylvania, formerly Keystone Helicopter.

That lawsuit, which had asked for jury trial, claimed that Sikorsky “engaged in a pattern of reckless and conscious disregard for the safety passengers of their S-92A helicopters”, in part by falsely advertising that the S-92A had a 30-min run-dry capability for its main gear box, a factor they say prompted the crew to try to fly back to land rather than plan for an orderly ditching. Canadian press reports that Sikorsky settled separately with the families of the two pilots.

Canadian investigators have determined that the helicopter’s main rotor was turning when the aircraft hit the water belly-first about 10 minutes after pilots received an indication that the main gearbox (MGB) transmission fluid had leaked out, but that the gearing to its tail rotor was badly damaged and an autorotation had been attempted.

Flight International previously reported that pre-certification testing of the helicopter revealed a similar duration of the MGB after oil loss, though Sikorsky had determined that an emergency transmission oil bypass system would prevent such an occurence. The company certified the helicopter under the assertion that other MGB failures were "extremely remote", which in US Federal Aviation Administration certification language means one failure per 10 million flight hours for the entire fleet of aircraft type.

Several MGB oil problems in the field before the Cougar accident however indicate that the failure rate was approximately once per 50,000 flight hours. 

Below is the lawsuit filed in Philadelphia in July. Note that the famliy of an additional passenger was added after the original submission, shown here.