Passengers had to jump out of a hovering North Sea helicopter after a mechanical failure – partly caused by fatigue, a probe has found.
The drama unfolded at Aberdeen Airport after the landing gear collapsed on an Airbus helicopter whose parts had been changed around a month earlier.
Ground engineers had to lay sandbags to help the helicopter land safely. Nobody was injured.
However, investigators have branded it a “serious incident” and say human factors including fatigue and a lack of experience contributed.
A new report into the crash on July 10 last year reveals the engineer who replaced a key part on June 7 had not done it before and had only had two days off in the previous 31 days – breaching the company’s procedures to reduce the risk of staff working while fatigued.
The helicopter is operated by CHC Scotia.
According to the report, the chopper was carrying 16 passengers and two crew and was returning to Aberdeen after a routine passenger flight.
As it came into land at 10.40am, the landing gear appeared to deploy normally but the nose landing gear collapsed due to a failure of a part and crew heard a “crunching noise”.
“Owing to a low fuel state, the passengers were disembarked while the helicopter was in a low hover,” said the report. “The aircraft was then landed safely, using sandbags to support the fuselage.”
A probe found a part had not been fitted properly.
The report added: “The investigation identified several human factors issues which contributed to the accident, including shift staffing levels, lack of experience and fatigue.
“The operator’s investigation identified (the replacement part) had not been completed correctly.
“The engineer tasked with the replacement of the part was also responsible for supervising a team of non-type rated engineers and had not completed the task before.
“In addition, the engineer had only taken two rest days over the preceding 31-day period.
“This had not been identified by the shift managers and contravened the company’s fatigue management procedures.
“It is possible these factors contributed to the failure of the engineer to transfer the bushing.”
After the incident, Airbus published a notification to operators, requiring operators to inspect their helicopters and ensure the part had been correctly installed.
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An Airbus spokesperson said: “Following a post-maintenance incident with the nose landing gear of a H175 helicopter a year ago, Airbus Helicopters took immediate action to ensure operators checked that no other aircraft were affected and issued renewed guidance to operators and maintenance organisations to support them in carrying out the relevant maintenance task correctly.
“No further incidents have occurred.”
A CHC spokesman added: “CHC welcomes the AAIB report into the event in July 2018.
“Immediately after the incident, we introduced a number of measures to reinforce existing procedures.
“We are confident these actions strengthen our compliance monitoring and continue to underpin the safety and airworthiness of the Airbus H175 and our helicopter fleet.
“CHC’s top priority is the safety of everyone we carry in our aircraft.
“We continue to share our learnings with other operators and the manufacturers, through our membership of HeliOffshore, and are committed to sharing best practice.”
The probe also revealed at least two other operators had experienced similar events – leading to Airbus issuing updated guidance relating to part replacement on June 15 2018 – 25 days before the crash.