The pilots of a helicopter that crashed into the sea off Shetland would have failed training tests had they replicated their actions on the day of the tragedy, an inquiry has heard.
Senior aviation consultant Mark Prior, with 40 years of flying experience, said the crew had “not met the standard of care” when monitoring airspeed as they approached land.
Four of the 18 people on the Super Puma L2 died after it crashed into the ocean two miles west of Sumburgh Airport on August 23 2013.
A fifth took his own life after suffering post-traumatic stress disorder.
During day 10 of a fatal accident inquiry, Mr Prior was asked what would have happened if the pilots replicated the approach in training.
He replied: “They would certainly have failed the test. They would perhaps have been put through some more training and a second test before they were allowed to go back to full flying.”
The former RAF pilot told Sheriff Principal Derek Pyle that his own experience included flying into Sumburgh Airport.
He said the two crew –Captain Martin Miglans and co-pilot Capt Alan Bell – should have flown the approach at a stabilised speed of 80 knots, but “this safety barrier was broken”.
He added: “If they had flown at 80 knots that would have allowed them to continue. They would not have been put in a regime of the handling becoming more difficult and in the end lost control.
“The crew were not compliant with the operations manual.”
Advocate depute Martin Richardson asked: “This non-compliance, did it meet, or not, the standard of reasonable care?”
Mr Prior replied: “It did not meet it.”
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has said flight instruments were “not monitored effectively” by the pilots in the moments leading up to the crash.
The AAIB said a lack of monitoring meant a reduction in air speed from 80 knots to 35 knots was not noticed by the pilots whose attempts to recover control came too late.
Mr Prior claimed the flying was a “joint responsibility” and failures were shared, adding:
“I assess them as a crew. Every six months you are trained and tested as a crew.”
Mr Prior suggested the crew’s pre-planning of the flight may also have prevented the tragedy at a much earlier stage.
He said they failed to get regular weather updates.
The Super Puma L2 had been tasked to fly to the North Alwyn platform, before flying on to Borgsten Dolphin semi-submersible in the North Sea and back to Aberdeen.
A stop for fuel had to be planned.
Mr Prior said if they had received information on incoming fog in Shetland the crew may have decided to fly directly back to base in Aberdeen from the North Alwyn rather than collect extra passengers at Borgsten Dolphin – which meant stopping at Shetland to refuel.
Mr Prior said: “At the flight planning stage, if the crew were aware of the true weather conditions they might not have taken the extra passengers on board.
“They could have flown directly back to base.
“There is a chain of events. The crew might have changed the plan. They might have asked air traffic control for an update on weather.
“There is a complete chain of events here and if any one of these had been broken then this event would not occur.”
The inquiry continues.