Page last updated at 15:45 GMT, Thursday, 16 July 2009 16:45 UK

Chance to avoid Puma crash missed

The Super Puma before it crashed [Pic: Gareth Falls]
A total of 16 men died when the Super Puma crashed in the North Sea

A chance to prevent the North Sea helicopter crash in which 16 men died was missed, experts investigating the accident have revealed.

Two crew and 14 passengers died when the Bond Super Puma crashed off the Aberdeenshire coast on 1 April.

A bulletin from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has said an earlier problem with the aircraft's gearbox was not correctly identified.

The experts called for a review of design and operating life of parts.

A metal chip was found in the gearbox of the Super Puma a week before the accident and engineers did institute extra checks.

However the latest bulletin from the AAIB said if the particle had been correctly identified and its importance properly understood then the whole module that failed in the crash could have been taken out of service.

'Maximising safety'

It said reviewing the design and operating life of parts within the gearbox would minimise the chance of any cracks in components causing failures.

The manufacturers, Eurocopter, are issuing more comprehensive guidance to help operators work out the significance of metal fragments that may be found in gearboxes in future.

Bill Munro, managing director of Bond Offshore Helicopters, said: "We welcome the latest recommendations from the AAIB and action by the manufacturer which will further enhance measures ensuring the safety of helicopter operations.

"We will continue to work closely with the manufacturer and the oil industry on maximising safety.

"The AAIB's investigation is ongoing and we await the outcome."

A Crown Office spokesman said the procurator fiscal's investigation into the circumstances of the crash was continuing.



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