David Learmount/London

The high-speed gear-shaft has become an early focus of investigators' attention into the crash of a Helikopter Service Eurocopter AS332L1 Super Puma on 8 September, says the Norwegian civil-aviation authority. The CAA emphasises, however, that this is a starting point following recovery of most of the wreckage from the sea, rather than a pre-judgement of the cause of the fatal accident (Flight International, 17-23 September, P27).

Meanwhile, Norwegian North Sea oil-support operators of the AS332L1 continued their voluntary grounding of the type last week, while their UK counterparts resumed flying on 16 September with UK CAA approval.

Bristow Helicopters confirms that the high-speed gear-shaft, which connects the engines to the main-rotor head gearbox, had been included in extensive checks carried out before restarting service on the UK-based AS332L1 fleet.

All 12 people on board the Super Puma were killed in the accident on 8 September when it crashed into the sea en route to a floating oil-platform. In the initial search, a main-rotor blade was found floating and it was examined as a possible crash cause, but the Norwegian CAA says that separation of that particular blade appears to have been a secondary effect of the impact.

The Norwegian CAA expected to issue clearance to restart flying by about 20 September, unless further evidence from inspection of the wreckage changed the course of action.

All that was awaited, said the Authority, was for the operators to deliver a proposal for an aircraft-inspection plan which was approved by the CAA, the manufacturer and the lead certificating authority (the French DGAC).

Source: Flight International