Airbus Helicopters was delivered another blow to its Super Puma EC-225 aircraft as Statoil has formally dropped the aircraft and now prohibits employees to be transported in any model of the helicopter, instead moving primarily to the Sikorsky S-92 for North Sea operations. The company made the decision after union workers requested a permanent ban on the helicopters in the wake of a fatal accident claimed the lives of 11 Statoil workers and the CHC crew operating the helicopter on April 29, 2016. This is despite the fact that EASA has now cleared the Super Puma to return to service.
The 2016 grounding follows an earlier 2012 grounding that resulted from a problem with the main gearbox vertical shaft that resulted in a fatal accident. That grounding, which lasted well into 2013, resulted in all North Sea operators progressively returning their aircraft into service after extensive modifications. However, with a second fatal accident in North Sea operations and several accidents with military versions of the aircraft, it appears that a perception that the aircraft is unsafe among customers may undermine its future in North Sea Oil and Gas operations.
Airbus helicopters had hoped to maintain production of both the EC-225 and its proposed X-6 successor, announced at the 2015 Paris Air Show in production through 2030. However, given recent events, it appears that a revised timetable is warranted to bring the X-6 into production and phase out the unpopular EC-255 sooner rather than later.