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UK Coastguard's Helicopter Fleet Grounded

Published in Oil Industry News on Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Graphic for News Item: UK Coastguard's Helicopter Fleet Grounded

The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has today confirmed they have been left without helicopter rescue capabilities after an Alert Service Bulletin from Sikorsky required all S92 aircraft to undergo 11 hours of mandatory examination prior to their next flight.

The alert from Sikorsky follows an investigation into an S92 helicopter that spun on the helideck of the West Franklin platform.

The MCA contract for helicopter support, currently held by Bristows, covers 10 UK Coastguard locations and as many helicopters.

The Alert Service Bulletin requirements are expected to take 11 hours to complete, meaning the Coastguard grounding should be resolved today, dependant on engineers being immediately available.

"A spokesperson for the MCA said: "We have been made aware that the global fleet of S92s, including those that fly for the UK Coastguard, has been stopped from flying while they undergo an inspection.

We expect those affected bases to return to service throughout the day as those repairs are put in place. The Inverness based helicopter has already been brought back into service for lifesaving work and we are negotiating a limited return to service at other bases in the same manner.

This issue affects all S92s operated around the world. Bristow Helicopters operates S92s on behalf of the UK Coastguard.

Of course search and rescue helicopters are not the only means by which the UK Coastguard can rescue people. The volunteers of the Coastguard Rescue Teams, Royal National Lifeboat Institution, the Mountain Rescue services and others, still remain available to support lifesaving work."

A spokesperson for Lockheed Martin who now own Sikorsky said: 

"Safety is our top priority, and Sikorsky is working closely with our customer and investigative authorities to determine the root cause of the loss of tail rotor authority in the Dec. 28 installation landing.  

Although the investigation into the Dec. 28 incident has not been completed, Sikorsky released an Alert Service Bulletin on Jan. 10 to define additional interim inspection requirements for the S-92 Tail Rotor Pitch Change Shaft. 

Those procedures include an off-aircraft check of the PCS bearing and that check must be done before next flight with some leeway for getting back to base. We are committed to keeping our customers informed. We will further communicate findings if the investigation reveals any safety or airworthiness issues that affect the S-92 helicopter fleet."

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