MSP calls for chopper safety record to be closely examined

Alison McInnes, MSP for North East Scotland, has today called on the Scottish Government to consider researching how the safety record of helicopters taking workers offshore compares with that of other countries’.

Responding to the Ministerial Statement on the helicopter accident on 23 August, Mrs McInnes told the Scottish Parliament that the manufacturers of the Super Puma fleet, Eurocopter, assured her that their global safety record is excellent.

However, she explained, they recognise that, with five incidents in as many years on flights between Scottish heliports and oil and gas installations in the North Sea, questions arise about whether something exceptional is going on in the area.

Mrs McInnes questioned the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, John Swinney MSP, on whether the Scottish Government has considered how the safety record of similar aircraft travelling to and from oil and gas installations compares with those of other countries.

She continued to ask if it will it work with its partners to conduct comparative research and find out whether this is indicative of a wider trend.

The Cabinet Secretary stated that the Scottish Government would be “only too happy to support comparative research” on this issue and indicated that it would encourage the Helicopter Safety Steering Group (HSSG) to take “as broad a view as possible” when it seeks to shed light on the issues involved.

Speaking afterwards, Mrs McInnes said: “Thousands of my constituents work in the offshore oil and gas industry and everyone in the North East knows someone connected to it. Many will be understandably apprehensive about their journeys to and from work.

“The importance of the oil and gas industry cannot be underestimated. It employs hundreds of thousands of people across the UK and is worth tens of billions of pounds every year. However, we cannot be complacent and safety must remain the paramount concern.

“The comparative safety record of the aircraft must be closely examined and the industry must quickly establish whether any further safety improvements can be made.

“The 75 helicopters that make up the North Sea fleet are the modern day work horses, ferrying tens of thousands of workers to the 600 offshore facilities each year. It is therefore vital that the cause of this tragedy is determined, lessons are learnt and that confidence is restored in the fleet as soon as possible.”