The London Air Traffic Control Centre notified the Air Accidents Investigation Branch of the accident at 1906 hrs on 27 December 2006; the investigation commenced the next day. The following Inspectors participated in the investigation:
Mr R Tydeman Investigator-in-Charge
Mr M Cook Operations
Mr K Conradi Operations
Mr M Jarvis Engineering
Mr S Moss Engineering
Mr P Wivell Flight Data Recorders
Mr A Burrows Flight Data Recorders
The helicopter departed Blackpool at 1800 hrs on a scheduled flight consisting of eight sectors within the Morecambe Bay gas field. The first two sectors were completed without incident but, when preparing to land on the North Morecambe platform, in the dark, the helicopter flew past the platform and struck the surface of the sea. The fuselage disintegrated on impact and the majority of the structure sank. Two fast response craft from a multipurpose standby vessel, which was on position close to the platform, arrived at the scene of the accident 16 minutes later. There were no survivors amongst the five passengers or two crew.
The investigation identified the following contributory factors:
The co-pilot was flying an approach to the North Morecambe platform at night, in poor weather conditions, when he lost control of the helicopter and requested assistance from the commander. The transfer of control was not precise and the commander did not take control until approximately four seconds after the initial request for help. The commander’s initial actions to recover the helicopter were correct but the helicopter subsequently descended into the sea.
The approach profile flown by the co-pilot suggests a problem in assessing the correct approach descent angle, probably, as identified in trials by the CAA, because of the limited visual cues available to him.
An appropriate synthetic training device for the SA365N was available but it was not used; the extensive benefits of conducting training and checking in such an environment were therefore missed.
Six Safety Recommendations have been made.
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Published 10 December 2014