Despite a grounding in the majority of the North Sea region that has now lasted more than a year, Airbus Helicopters is confident that its H225 will shortly be restored to full flight status.
Speaking during an investor briefing on the sidelines of the Paris air show, Airbus Group chief executive Tom Enders said the division was “hopeful” that the remaining ban on commercial H225 flights would be lifted “any time soon”.
However, he cautions: “But at this time, after so many delays, we are not going to make any predictions.”
The H225 and related AS332 L2 remain grounded in Norway and the UK following an April 2016 crash in which 13 passengers and crew died. That flight restriction covers a “significant part” of the global oil and gas Super Puma fleet, Enders says.
Although the European Aviation Safety Agency has released the type to fly again provided a number of safety procedures are observed, Norway and the UK have refused to follow suit.
This, says Enders is “somewhat awkward” as “under existing agreements with EASA they should do this [lift their flight restrictions]”.
Norwegian investigators have determined that the Super Puma (LN-OJF) came down after a catastrophic gearbox failure caused the main rotor to separate from the helicopter.
However, they have been unable to determine a root cause for the underlying fatigue in the second-stage planet gear that caused the incident, although they believe it may be related to a bearing issue implicated in a 2009 accident.
European regulators grounded the H225 in the immediate aftermath of the crash, but lifted their ban in October 2016.