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Bristow helicopters’ brushes with mishaps

Bristow Helicopters (Nigeria) Limited is experiencing tough times as two crashes involving their helicopters have put the company in the dark book of helicopter operations…

Bristow Helicopters (Nigeria) Limited is experiencing tough times as two crashes involving their helicopters have put the company in the dark book of helicopter operations in the country.
On Wednesday last week, a S76 C++ helicopter marked 5N-BQJ  belonging to the company which departed ERHA Platform  enroute Lagos was ditched into the Atlantic Ocean 95 nautical miles into destination at about 10:20am local time. All the 11people on board including two crew members were, however rescued alive.
The latest crash came barely six months after similar helicopter type crashed at the Oworonsoki area of Lagos.
In the 2015 crash which happened on August 15, a Sikorsky S-76C+, which was returning from a drilling rig offshore belonging to SEDCO in Ondo State en route the Lagos Airport, crashed as it approached the MMIA. Six of the 12 people onboard died then.
Following the latest crash, the aviation regulatory authority, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) suspended operation of the helicopter series with immediate effect to enable it carry out full-scale audit of the company’s operation.
By the NCAA’s decision as announced by its Director-General, Capt. Muktar Usman, the firm can continue operation but its Sikorsky series would be grounded until further notice. Usman said the authority viewed “with utmost seriousness the successive mishaps of Bristow Helicopters’ operating aircraft Sikorsky S- 76C++ on the coastal waters of Lagos.”
He however explained that the suspension of operations of the company did not represent a vote of no confidence on the company but to ascertain the adequacy and propriety of the operating aircraft type.
“This is not new in the industry; it is one of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) all over the world,” Usman said.
He said the decision was without prejudice to the ongoing investigation of Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), adding that the authority would fully support the bureau in its investigation.
It was learnt that the authority had informed the company of the suspension prior to going public which explained why Bristow issued a statement, saying “following standard practice, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has advised Bristow to temporarily stop operation of the Sikorsky S-76C family of aircraft in Nigeria.
“We are continuing to cooperate fully with the NCAA and the Nigerian Accident Investigation Bureau (NAIB) in its investigation concerning the Bristow helicopter that was involved in the controlled water landing near Lagos on Feb. 3, 2016,” the firm said in a statement.
Our correspondent learnt that Bristow has six Sikorsky helicopters in its fleet. Other helicopter companies like Atlantic Aviation and Caverton also operate Sikorsky series.
What is worrying, according to a source in NCAA, was why Bristow Sikorsky series got involved in two crashes within the space of six months.
A source in NCAA said: “This is why we have decided to suspend their operation pending when we would complete our audit. To be honest with you, they (Bristow Helicopters) are doing fine but the problem might either be maintenance issue or operational lapse. I am sure the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) would provide a clearer picture at the completion of their investigation”.   
Bristow Helicopters (Nigeria) Limited provides aviation services to the offshore energy industry, serving major integrated offshore energy companies in Africa’s oil and gas industry.

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