THE Super Puma helicopter fleet will return to service.
However, the model involved in last Friday’s crash off Shetland which resulted in the deaths of four oil workers will not carry passengers.
Step Change in Safety’s Helicopter Safety Steering Group (HSSG), comprising helicopter operators, trade unions and regulators, agreed to lift the temporary suspension of the Super Puma fleet at a meeting in Aberdeen on Thursday.
It said the decision was based on confidence in the helicopters being expressed by European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the pilots’ union BALPA, the Norwegian CAA and the helicopter operators themselves, following five days of reviewing safety management systems and processes.
Les Linklater, Step Change in Safety’s team leader, said: "By taking the time out for safety since the weekend, we have had the opportunity to review key elements of our fleet and better understand the positions of the authorities that determine the airworthiness and operational compliance and safety of our helicopter fleet.
"The result is that there is no evidence to support a continuation of the temporary suspension of the entire Super Puma fleet."
The L2 fleet, the specific type involved in the Shetland incident, will be initially re-introduced for non-passenger operations only.
A sympathetic approach will be taken to any worker who, during this period, feels unable to fly.
The helicopter operators have reviewed their own safety management systems and processes and are satisfied that there is no reason to believe there is an inherent mechanical problem with any of the aircraft.
Elgin woman Sarah Darnley (45) was among the four killed when their helicopter crashed in the sea close to Sumburgh Airport last Friday.
Mr Linklater continued: "Four people tragically lost their lives on Friday, however there are almost 16,000 people offshore currently, with over 12,000 in the most affected areas (central and northern North Sea).
"There are over 250 people who have spent more than 21 days offshore, this is increasing daily and they and their families are wondering when they are going to get home.
"We have a duty of care to all offshore workers both in terms of their safety and their well-being; we must consider the cumulative risk of the ‘time out’.
"We must avoid a further tragedy through the introduction of human factor-based risk such as fatigue, stress and other well-being concerns that increase the likelihood of a high consequence – low frequency event.
"The individual helicopter operating companies will now work with their customers, to ensure the correct information and confidence-building communication is available, sensitive to the individual needs of the offshore workforce, before returning to full commercial passenger service."
However, one Moray worker, speaking to ‘The Scot’ from offshore, said: "The mood isn’t great out here, especially as the last one that went down was for our rig.
"Something really needs to be done this time. We are working for Total and we don’t think they are doing enough about it or giving us enough information either.
"We are expected to carry on regardless, production comes first, it’s a joke."