The union Unite, which counts among its members in Scotland tens of thousands of offshore workers, has threatened to call them out on strike if a Puma helicopter with an appalling safety record is brought back into service. The model in question was suspended last year in Britain and Norway after the latest Super Puma crash had killed 13 workers.
After the crash, the operating company admitted that the same helicopter had just days earlier been forced to return to base after a cockpit warning light came on. A part was replaced, but on a test flight the following day the warning light came on again. Subsequently, a component was changed and a second test flight went okay, but just days later came the fatal crash.
Earlier helicopter crashes, some fatal and many involving versions of the Super Puma, triggered a growing wave of public disquiet. In 2009, sixteen lives were lost when a Super Puma crashed on a return flight to Aberdeen. Four years later another Super Puma crashed off Shetland, killing a further four people. Yet in October 2014 the government was still refusing demands for a public inquiry into helicopter safety.
Now, even in the wake of last year’s Norway disaster, the government is still eager to prioritise private profit over public safety, with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) arguing that it cannot ban Super Puma flights involving Britain until it is agreed at European level.
Oil worker David Winder, who started a petition to ban the Super Puma that attracted many thousands of signatures (including relatives of those whose lives were taken), summed up the situation: “We call on the CAA to put the lives of offshore oil workers and the pilots before vested interests, and revoke the air worthiness certificates for this aircraft. Failure to do this we feel will result in more needless deaths.”
Clearly, for capitalism this is a price worthy paying. (Should the Airbus 225 Super Puma be grounded for good? by Julian Turner, Offshore Technology, 14 July 2016)