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File image of a Sikorsky S-92A helicopter at Bergen airport in Norway. Alamy Stock Photo

No plans to cease use of Irish Coast Guard helicopters after fatal Norway crash of same model

The Irish Coast guard has a fleet of five Sikorsky’s S-92A helicopters.

THE IRISH COAST Guard has no plans to cease using a type of helicopter that was recently involved in a fatal crash in Norway.

The Sikorsky’s S-92A aircraft model was used during a search-and-rescue training mission in the Norwegian North Sea last Wednesday, which ended in a crash that claimed one life.

The Department of Transport in Ireland has said the Coast Guard is “monitoring developments” following the incident, but has no plans to stop using its fleet of five Sikorsky’s S-92A helicopters.

Reidun Hestetun, 61, died and five others were injured in the crash that happened 15 nautical miles off the coast of Bergen.

norway crash Reidun Hestetun, who died in the helicopter crash last week Equinor Equinor

In a statement, the Department of Transport said: “The Coast Guard extends its deepest sympathy to all those impacted by the accident and in particular the families and friends of the deceased crew member.”

While Hestetun is an employee of oil firm Equinor, which was involved in the test mission, the five other people who were injured are employees of Bristow Group. Bristow provides aviation services to offshore energy companies and government entities.

One of the injured persons is in a critical condition and another is severely injured.

The Sikorsky S-92A aircraft is currently used by the Irish Coast Guard.

However, the Irish Coast Guard will begin to transistion to a new aircraft towards the end of this year

It will switch to six Leonardo AW189, which are designed for long range, all-weather search-and-rescue operations and medical evacuations.

Sikorsky is a Lockheed Martin company – the majority of Lockheed Martin’s business is with the US Department of Defence and US federal government agencies.

Sikorsky said in a statement that safety is its top priority, and it stands ready to support the investigation.

In a statement on Thursday, Norway’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said it was assessing whether to ground the Sikorsky S-92A helicopter and added that the case has the “highest priority”.

The Norwegian Safety Investigation Authority arrived in Bergen on Thursday morning to begin its investigations, which was initially hampered by poor weather.

In a statement, Equinor said it is cooperating closely with the helicopter operator Bristow and with relevant authorities in the aftermath of the incident.

Equinor and other Norwegian oil firms had suspended all flights to and from installations offshore following the incident, though search and rescue services remained operational.

However, a day later Equinor and others resumed flights on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.

“We thought it was right that flights were paused after the accident,” said Equinor in a statement.

“When the authorities and other professional communities say that it is safe to start ordinary transport services, we must have great confidence in them and the decisions that have been made.”

On Thursday, Bristow said it is “in the process of collecting pertinent information and will provide updates as appropriate”.

Elsewhere, the UK’s oil and gas industry body, Offshore Energies UK, last week issued a joint statement with the Offshore Helicopter Safety Leadership Group reaffirming its confidence in the aircraft.

Its statement noted that the S-92 helicopter has been in operation for 20 years and is operated in 28 countries.

“There are currently 263 helicopters in service flying 2.2 million flight hours that equates to 13,200 hours per month,” said the joint statement.

“At this time, neither the manufacturer nor the Norwegian Civil Aviation Authority have identified any technical concerns on this helicopter. 

“The industry has confidence in the safety of this helicopter and its airworthiness.”

The statement added that it will work closely with a wide range of stakeholders in the UK and Norway “to ensure that any learning from this tragic incident is shared across the industry and that appropriate steps are taken”.

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