The flight data recorder of a Super Puma helicopter that crashed into the North Sea, killing four offshore workers, including a man from County Durham, has been recovered.
The helicopter plunged into the sea as it approached Sumburgh airport on the southern tip of Shetland on Friday, killing three men and one woman, including Duncan Munro, 46, from Bishop Auckland, County Durham.
The search for the data recorder had been described as challenging due to the “nature of the environment“ where the wreckage was located.
A statement from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said: “The combined voice and flight data recorder from the AS332 L2 Super Puma helicopter has been successfully recovered and will be transported to the AAIB HQ in Farnborough later today.”
Early indications show the flight approach of the AS332 L2 Super Puma was normal until three miles from the airport runway and it crashed into the sea two miles west of runway 09 when airspeed dropped along with an “increased rate of descent“, the AAIB said.
“The evidence currently available suggests that the helicopter was intact and upright when it entered the water,” a statement said. “It then rapidly inverted and drifted northwards towards Garths Ness.
“The helicopter was largely broken up by repeated contact with the rocky shoreline. Some items of wreckage have already been recovered and will be transported to the AAIB’s HQ in Farnborough.”
It is hoped that the flight data recorder will shed light on what caused the helicopter to come down.
The AAIB said the investigation is at an early stage and the factors that led to the crash cannot yet be identified.
Representatives from the French accident investigation authority (BEA), the helicopter manufacturer and the engine manufacturer were also invited to join the investigation by the AAIB.
The Bibby Polaris salvage boat arrived at Lerwick harbour in Shetland carrying some of the wreckage at about 4am yesterday, the harbour’s port control has said.
The industry’s helicopter safety steering group (HSSG) has been reviewing the suspension of Super Puma flights introduced after the crash.
Representatives from operators, trade unions and regulators gathered in Aberdeen yesterday to discuss the issue after a meeting on Wednesday failed to reach a decision on when the helicopters could return to the skies.
CHC has temporarily suspended all flights of the three types of Super Puma helicopter that it operates - the L, L2 and EC225.
Fellow operators Bond Offshore Helicopters and Bristow also enforced a temporary suspension of all Super Puma flights except emergency rescue missions in the wake of a recommendation by the HSSG.