Thursday, November 06, 2008

Report into Morecambe offshore helicopter crash

Accident occurred on 27 December 2006 whilst the helicopter was approaching a gas platform in Morcambe Bay. The two pilots and five passengers were killed.

Report No: 7/2008. Report on the accident to Aerospatiale SA365N, registration G-BLUN, near the North Morecambe gas platform, Morecambe Bay on 27 December 2006.
Report published 23 October 2008 by the Air Accident Investigation Board and available at their website.

The report suggests the co-pilot who was flying the helicopter on its approach to the gas platform became disorientated, probably due to darkness and weather. Handover of control to the pilot was not precise and the pilot himself was not ready to take control. This meant there was not enough to time to work out what to do before the helicopter hit the water at a speed that was not survivable.

This is a difficult accident to comment on. We usually look for root causes in systems and organisations so that we can make good recommendations. This accident is an example of how individuals can fail, and sometimes those failures will result in accidents. In others words, if we accept risk we sometime have to accept tragedy.

The report makes six recommendations, but none in my mind are particularly earth shattering, asking for reviews of standard operating procedures and suggesting some areas for research. A comment is made that a simulator was available for training, but had not been used. No recommendation is made, and given the level of experience of the pilots in this case it is difficult to see whether such training would have had much impact on the risks.

Andy Brazier

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