Exclusive: Airbus Helicopters Finds Root Cause of Turoy H225 Crash
Airbus Helicopters has said it is confident that it has identified the root cause of the main gearbox (MGB) failure behind the fatal 2016 crash of an H225 Super Puma helicopter in Norway.
All 13 of the helicopters passengers died in the incident after the main rotor separated from the aircraft at 2,000ft as it approached Bergen on the west coast of Norway.
Norwegian air accident investigators determined in its initial report in July 2018 that a second-stage planet gear failed due to sub-surface cracking and fracture of a bearing race.
But Airbus has continued its own analysis of the event, leading to identification of the root cause and a successful replication of the failure in testing. That work has been externally validated according to the company.
Findings from that effort were subsequently shared with Norway’s SHT accident investigation body, regulators including the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, and other manufacturers.
Although the company declines to detail the failure, they say that the safety barriers put in place to enable the H225 to return to service, deal with the underlying issue.
The safety measures include a heightened inspection regime, shorter life limits on components and – significantly – the exclusion of one of the two different bearing designs used on the helicopter.
The H225 and the related AS332 L2 airframes were grounded for four months following the crash, and although both are now cleared for service, no operator has chosen to bring them back into service.
But Airbus Helicopters chief executive Bruno Even still believes the rotorcraft can make a comeback in the North Sea and was quoted as saying: “the aircraft needs “time” to achieve acceptance.
“We are doing all that we are able to do, but in the end, it is the customer who has to decide.
“There is a strong dynamic in the market and that convinces me that we are doing the right thing,” says Even, pointing to continued H225 sales – particularly of the military variant – and an ongoing effort to “repurpose” former offshore-roled examples.
“The success of the repurposing is an incredible demonstration of versatility unparalleled in the heavy helicopter segment,” says Even.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority says its position on the H225 has not changed and it has yet to receive an application from an operator to resume H225 passenger flights in the country.
Airbus recently celebrates the delivery of its 1000th Super Puma airframe.