UPDATE: Cougar Helicopters responds to TSB report

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Company says ‘knowledge and procedures have been enhanced’ since 2011 incident

A detailed Transportation Safety Board (TSB) report on a Cougar Helicopters flight offshore, nearly ending in disaster on July 23, 2011, has been given initial review by the company.
According to the report, released today, the aircraft was leaving the SeaRose FPSO went into a sudden descent and came within 11 metres of the water. That is about the length of an average school bus.

A Sikorsky S-92A helicopter. — Telegram file photo

Asked for response, a spokeswoman for Cougar Helicopters stated any and all recommendations coming to the company from the TSB will be followed.

“As a result of the July 2011 event, Cougar’s knowledge and procedures have been enhanced, from its previous already high level. Cougar has a safe operation and it continues to strive to make it even safer,” said spokeswoman Candace Moakler, in an emailed response to questions.

“Cougar continues to be a leader in safety awareness and through its commitment to continuous improvement, it is a leader and an advocate of the promotion of Canadian, indeed global, aviation safety. The organization continues to strive for and target excellence in every aspect of its day to day operations — some of which is from lessons learned,” she states.

“Actions noted from past experiences are, where appropriate, incorporated into pilot and engineer continuous recurrent training. Further, as noted within the TSB Report, Cougar has already initiated new enhancements within its flying program. These actions assist in assuring that Cougar continues to provide the highest level of safety for its passengers and employees and continual customer satisfaction.”

The company has extended its thanks to the TSB for the detailed review and report on the incident.

 

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

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Earlier story

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has ruled out an aircraft system malfunction in an incident July 23, 2011, involving a Cougar Helicopters’ Sikorsky S-92A aircraft while taking off from the Sea Rose floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel off Newfoundland.

The TSB has released a report this morning from its investigation into the incident in which the helicopter experienced an inadvertent descent while departing the FPSO.

There were five passengers and two flight crewmembers on board, enroute to St. John’s International Airport.

“After engaging the go-around mode of the automatic flight control system during the departure, the helicopter’s pitch attitude increased to approximately 23° nose-up while in instrument meteorological conditions,” the TSB report reads.

But then, a “rapid loss of airspeed” occurred. The report describes what happened next. “After reaching a maximum altitude of 541 feet above sea level (534 feet radar altitude), the helicopter began descending towards the water in a nose-high attitude at low indicated airspeed. The descent was arrested 38 feet above the surface of the water. After approximately five seconds in the hover, the helicopter departed and flew to St. John’s. The helicopter’s transmission limits were exceeded during the recovery. There was no damage to the helicopter and there were no injuries.”

In its findings, the TSB said there was no indication that an aircraft system malfunction contributed to this occurrence. As a result, the analysis focused on operational factors that contributed to the inadvertent descent.

The report describes what took place in the cockpit resulting in the loss in altitude. It says:

“1. During the departure procedure, the captain made a large, rapid aft cyclic input just before the cyclic trim button was released and the go-around mode was engaged, which caused the helicopter to enter a nose-high, decelerating pitch attitude.

2. The S-92A’s go-around (GA) mode is designed with reduced control authority. As a result of this reduced control authority, the helicopter experienced difficulties recovering from the nose-high pitch attitude which occurred following the GA mode engagement.

3. As the airspeed of the helicopter decreased to within five knots of the minimum control speed in instrument meteorological conditions (VMINI), the captain momentarily pressed the cyclic force trim release button and made an aft cyclic input. This caused the helicopter’s airspeed to decrease below VMINI, and the helicopter to enter a 23° nose-high unusual attitude.

4. The captain, subtly incapacitated possibly due to spatial disorientation, did not lower the nose of the helicopter and apply collective to recover from the nose-high unusual attitude. This contributed to the excessive amount of altitude that was lost during the inadvertent descent.

5. Contrary to what is stated in the two-challenge rule in Cougar Helicopters’ SK-92 Helicopter Standard Operating Procedures, the first officer did not take control of the helicopter when the appropriate action was not taken to recover from the inadvertent descent.”

The TSB says following this incident, Cougar Helicopters published a “Pilot Memo” on engaging autopilot functions and it has also been incorporated into the Cougar Helicopters SK-92 standard operating procedures.

Cougar Helicopters also published a pilot memo titled “Unusual Attitude Recovery” which states that its intent is to “clarify and reinforce the company policy on pilot Incapacitation and unusual attitude recovery. The memo also outlines the recommended recovery procedure.

The full TSB report can be found online at http://bit.ly/18STEoF

Organizations: Transportation Safety Board of Canada, Sea Rose, International Airport

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