Eurocopter anticipates that a solution to the main gearbox problem that has grounded the North Sea fleet of EC225s will be available next month. Offshore operators, especially those in the North Sea, have seen major disruption of their activities, as have the oil and gas companies that depend on helicopter transportation for crew changes on their platforms.
Bristow officials are confident an “interim way to safely fly” Eurocopter EC225s will be found late this spring or early this summer. In a recent fiscal third-quarter earnings conference call, top executives at the helicopter operator said such an interim fix could be tighter oversight of Hums parameters, thus confirming what Eurocopter’s CEO hinted late last month. A shaft redesign, if needed, would take about a year-and-a-half, Bristow officials estimate.
Offshore operator Bristow “entered into an agreement” yesterday to order 10 Sikorsky S-92 medium-twin helicopters and secured options for another 16. The move emerges as the operator is keeping 16 Eurocopter Super Pumas on the ground, following two controlled ditchings that affected the EC225 type in just six months. Both ditchings were caused by a failure of the main gearbox.
The busy North Sea oil and gas rig transportation sector lost nearly a third of its capacity on October 23, after CHC Helicopter suspended all flight operations using the Eurocopter EC 225. The ban, pending further investigation, came after a company Super Puma ditched in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland the day before. CHC competitors Bond and Bristow also grounded their Super Pumas after the incident.
The aircraft suffered a cracked gearbox shaft, according to the UK’s Air Accident Investigation Branch.
Global offshore helicopter service provider Bristow Group is making a $250 million minority interest investment in VIH Aviation unit Cougar Helicopters. Bristow said it expects to complete the transaction by year-end, subject to Canadian regulatory approval. As part of the deal, Bristow will acquire various Cougar operating assets, including eight Sikorsky S-92As and Cougar’s Canadian passenger and maintenance facilities at St. John’s, Labrador, and Halifax. The purchased aircraft and facilities will then be long-term leased back to Cougar.
Offshore oil and gas helicopter service provider Bristow has secured new contracts for 20 large aircraft that it expects will generate more than $2 billion in revenue. The deals are a combination of new contracts and extensions of current ones in Australia, Brazil and Europe for Sikorsky S-92s and Eurocopter EC225s.
Eurocopter released a statement on June 15, absolving the UK’s Bond Offshore Helicopters of responsibility for the May 10, 2012 ditching of an EC225 Super Puma into the North Sea.
Oil and gas giant Shell has excluded Bond Offshore Helicopters from a tender for helicopter services in the North Sea in which Bond was participating. Shell explained that the recent Eurocopter EC225 ditching event requires additional review, a process it has deemed too lengthy for the tender’s timeline.
Shell Oil announced on May 31 that it is pulling the plug on plans to sign a multimillion-dollar deal with UK-based Bond Offshore Helicopters to provide transportation within the UK.
RTE (Réseau de Transport d’Electricité), the company managing France’s network of electric power lines, took delivery of its second medium twin, a Eurocopter EC225, last month. It recently created a new subsidiary, Airtelis, that offers specialized aerial-work operations to third parties. In more than 250,000 flight hours over decades of operations, RTE claims to have developed patented techniques to use helicopters in power-line building, maintenance and surveillance.