Eurocopter SAS EC225 and AS332 helicopters, models used widely in the oil and gas industry, are subject to over-water flight restrictions in Europe following two North Sea ditchings this year.
Aircraft that aren’t equipped with a vehicle health monitoring system to check the condition of the vertical shaft are forbidden from flying over water, while data from helicopters with the system installed must be reviewed as frequently as every three flight hours, the European Aviation Safety Agency said in a statement.
The directive was issued “in the interests of safe operations following two accidents involving EC225 helicopters that were required to make emergency landings,” the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement relaying the EASA order. Search-and-rescue missions are exempted from the ban.
Regulators imposed the restrictions following an Oct. 22 incident reported by the U.K. Air Accidents Investigation Branch in which an EC225 went down in the North Sea about 32 nautical miles south of Scotland’s Shetland Islands. No one was injured in that accident. An earlier emergency landing occurred in May, triggered limits on the model to daytime flights. Both ditchings were linked to a component failure associated with the main gear box, the EASA said.
“While the investigation is still at an early stage, the cause of this new ditching seems to result from the failure of that vertical shaft,” the Cologne, Germany-based EASA said in the Oct. 25 directive.
A spokesman at Marignane, France-based Eurocopter didn’t immediately respond to a phone message and e-mail seeking comment.
Sales of offshore helicopters have been the backbone of commercial-division revenue in recent years at Eurocopter, a unit of European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. (EAD), to make up for a declining market for smaller models. The 11-metric ton EC225 can transport 19 people as far as 800 kilometers (430 nautical miles) to oil rigs.
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