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Agency Calls for Improved Helicopter Standards

The Canada Transportation Safety Board has completed its investigation of an offshore helicopter crash in 2009 that killed 17 people, and has recommended that helicopter manufacturers increase safety standards on their aircraft to prevent such crashes in the future.

Specifically, the Transportation Safety Board is calling on helicopter manufacturers to ensure that helicopters flying to offshore locations meet the 30-minute standard.  In other words, these helicopters must be able to operate for at least 30 minutes after a major gearbox failure.  Gearbox failure is one of the factors that have been blamed for the Sikorsky helicopter crash that claimed 17 victims in 2009.

The helicopter had been certified to be able to fly even after a major oil failure in the gear box.  However, other testing conducted after an accident in Australia showed that the helicopter was not equipped to fly for 30 minutes after a gearbox oil failure.    According to the Transportation Safety Board, Canadian, American and European regulators must require helicopters that ferry offshore workers to oil rigs and platforms to meet the minimum 30 minute standard.  These helicopters must also carry emergency breathing equipment to increase the chances of survival in the cold waters.

The Transportation Safety Board  investigation found that all of the 17 victims were alive when the helicopter hit the frigid waters of the Atlantic.  However, the equipment to ensure that the helicopter stayed afloat on the water had been damaged in the crash.  In the frigid waters of the North Sea, death came quickly.

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