The Sikorsky S92, which is set to replace the current fleet of Coast Guard Search and Rescue (SAR) fleet of helicopters, has a history of safety issues in different jurisdictions.
These concerns primarily relate to the helicopter’s gearbox and have come under close scrutiny in the United States, Canada, Australia and at European Union level.
Gearbox difficulties were cited in a US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) investigation which examined the crash of an S92 off the coast of Newfoundland last March that killed 17 of the 18 people on board.
Following the Newfoundland tragedy, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada recommended that the main gearbox mounting stud be replaced in the S92’s worldwide fleet.
A subsequent investigation conducted by the Toronto-based Globe and Mail newspaper revealed that gearbox oil loss was cited in four separate emergencies involving S92s between 2004 and 2009.
Following the Newfoundland tragedy, in a memo distributed to offshore oil workers, it was revealed that S92s operated by a charter company in Newfoundland were issued with an altitude restriction.
The choppers, operated by Cougar Helicopters, were not allowed to fly above 7,000 feet given that lower flying reduces the time required to make an emergency landing in the event of any gearbox difficulty.
See The Munster Express newspaper for full story.