Friday, 3 April 2009

Helicopter crashes + spot the difference

It’s now accepted that there’s no hope of finding any survivors from Wednesday’s helicopter accident in the North Sea. Sixteen people were aboard the Super Puma that crashed into the water 14 miles from Peterhead on its journey back from BP’s Miller oil platform.

The whole North Sea oil industry depends on helicopters to ferry personnel back and forth, and more than a hundred people have died in crashes since production began. Only in February another Super Puma came down in the sea in fog. On that occasion, all 18 people aboard were rescued, but 11 men were killed in 1992 when their Super Puma fell into the sea on a 200 yard journey from a production platform to an accommodation barge.

The world’s worst ever civilian helicopter accident happened in the North Sea in 1986 when a Chinook carrying workers home from the Brent field crashed as it was approaching Sumburgh Airport on Shetland. Its rotor blades collided with each other, and the aircraft came down in the sea and sank, killing 45 of the 47 people aboard.

Spot the difference. When Palestine’s democratically elected Hamas government refused to be bound by agreements that earlier Palestinian administrations had made with Israel, US President George W Bush orchestrated an international conspiracy (in which Labour enthusiastically joined) to starve the Palestinians into submission. Now Israel’s new Foreign Minister has repudiated agreements earlier Israeli governments made with the Palestinians. When do you expect President Obama to start trying to starve the Israelis into submission? Safety warning – don’t hold your breath.


  1. Nicolas Tractomas6 April 2009 at 08:45

    Mr Disaster Historian!

    I have found another Scottish helicopter crash that might interest you. Let me cast your mind back to 2nd June 1994. At around 18.00hrs that evening, on the Mull of Kintyre, fog was descending over the mountains. It was at that time when an RAF Boeing Chinook HC2 made, what air accident investigators call, a 'Controlled Flight Into Terrain', and what the rest of us call 'flying into the side of a mountain'. 25 passengers and four crew were killed instantly. What made this crash unusual was that the aircraft was carrying 25 of the top police, intelligence and army officials dealing with British operations in Northern Ireland from RAF Aldergrove to an Intelligence conference at Iverness. The official RAF Board of Inquiry into the incident found the aircraft's two pilots guilty of gross negligence. However, the deceased families' have angrily disputed this and there have been repeated allegations that the MoD and the RAF are covering up the real cause of the crash. While sabotage has been ruled out, mechanical failure seems more likely. The Chinook had recently been upgraded with a new engine, although throughout the Chinook fleet the new engines were suffering from problems. Moreover, the FADEC (Full Authority Digital Flight Controls) were also causing problems. These had been installed as part of the upgrade. Defence secretary John Hutton has said that no new evidence has come to light to state that the cause of the accident was anything other than crew negligence. But the families are not giving up. The whole incident smacks of a whitewash.

    The MoD does not have too much luck with Chinooks. Remember the eight Special Forces Chinooks which were purchased in 1998 and which have remained grounded ever since their arrival in the UK because of a software dispute with Boeing? These are only now being readied for service under an upgrade contract. The cumulative costs of the acquisition, storage and upgrade of these aircrat has actually made them the most expensive helicopters that the RAF has ever procured!

  2. NT - thanks for this - v interesting. ah yes, I remember it well, as old Maurice C might have said. Always categorised the 1994 disaster in my mind as "military" rather than "civilian" - tho I suppose it is borderline. Still, unless you know different, Sumburgh is the worst civilian helicopter crash that I'm aware of. The deadliest military one I know of was in 2002 when Chechen rebels shot down an overloaded Russian Mi-26 near Grozny, killing 127, but I am conscious you know much more about this area than I do.