Crash: NCAA suspends Bristow’s Sikorsky S-76C helicopters

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority has suspended the Bristow Helicopters Limited’s Sikorsky S-76C type of aircraft from flying until further notice.

The Director-General, NCAA, Capt. Muhtar Usman, while addressing journalists in Lagos on Thursday, said the suspension was to enable the agency to carry out full-scale audit on Bristow operations with particular emphasis on its Sikorsky S-76C family of aircraft.

The suspension comes a day after Bristow Helicopters’ controlled ditching of one of its aircraft on Wednesday.

Usman said the suspension was a precautionary step in line with international best practice, and was without prejudice to investigations being conducted by the Accident Investigation Bureau.

According to him, the regulatory agency views with utmost seriousness the successive accidents involving Bristow’s Sikorsky S-76C helicopters on the coastal waters of Lagos, hence the decision to suspend the operations of the aircraft.

The aircraft, according to the DG, is an American medium-sized commercial utility helicopter manufactured by the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation.

It features twin turbo shaft engines, four-bladed main and tail rotors, and a retractable landing gear.

Usman recalled that a Sikorsky S-76C helicopter operated by the firm had crashed on August 12, 2015 in Oworonshoki area of Lagos, meaning that Wednesday’s incident occurred a little over six months after the preceding one.

He pointed out that as a responsible regulatory agency, it was important to stem the rapidity of occurrence and ensure that the airline carried out safe operations.

“The suspension is not to pass a vote of no confidence in the helicopter services company. It is to ascertain the adequacy and propriety of the operating aircraft type. This is not new in the industry; it is one of the standard operating procedures all over the world,” Usman added.

Meanwhile, in a statement on its website, Bristow Helicopters said it would cooperate with the NCAA and the AIB in their investigations into the cause of the incident.

Bristow stated that all nine passengers and two crew on board the aircraft, with tail number 5N-BQJ, arrived at an onshore installation with minor injuries.

The firm said it had also established a dedicated telephone hotline for family members of those on board the flight.