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Monday, February 14, 2011

Canada Seeks Tougher Chopper Safety Standards

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada is calling for more stringent safety measures for helicopters operating in harsh environments as the result of a fatal crash in the North Atlantic two years ago in which 17 people were killed.

The Sikorsky S-92A helicopter (C-GZCH) operated by Cougar Helicopters as Flight 91 was ferrying workers to an offshore oil platform when it went down in frigid waters off the coast of Newfoundland on March 12, 2009.

The TSB, in issuing its final report on the fatal crash, ruled the chopper’s gearbox failed and equipment to keep the aircraft afloat after impact was damaged in the crash. Only one passenger escaped drowning.

TSB Chair Wendy Tadros said the aviation industry must make safety improvements to helicopters. "We want the legacy of this accident to be a safer system for all those who fly over water," said Tadros. "We know what happened that day; our goal now is to make sure helicopter safety is improved, from takeoff to touchdown."

The TSB report, which highlighted a complex web of 16 factors, stated that Flight 91 ran into trouble when titanium studs broke on the main gearbox filter bowl. This led to a total loss of oil, which 11 minutes later ultimately brought the helicopter down. The pilot had cited a loss of oil pressure moments before the aircraft suddenly plunged into the ocean.

In the wake of the S-92 crash in Canada, U.S.  Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive (EAD), which grounded Sikorsky S-92As until the titanium components in the drive train were replaced.

The FAA issued the directive on March 23, 2009, saying the titanium mounting had to be replaced by steel ones before they could fly again.

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