Helicopter Inquiry Calls Rejected

Calls for a public inquiry into offshore helicopter safety after a series of crashes have been rejected by the Government.

The House of Commons Transport Committee recommended a "full and independent'' inquiry earlier this year.

It had looked into helicopter safety after four people died in a Super Puma crash near Sumburgh airport in Shetland in August last year.

It was the fifth helicopter accident involving the transfer of oil and gas industry personnel in the North Sea since 2009.

The Government has now responded to the report and said it "does not support'' the call for a public inquiry.

The Transport Committee report published in July said a recent review into offshore helicopter safety by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had not looked at the impact of commercial pressure on helicopter safety.

The Government response, published today, said: "It is true that competition for contracts, particularly where contracts are offered at short notice or awarded at a lower price, may impact on the ability of the operator to recruit and train for a new commitment but there is no evidence to suggest this is the case.

"The committee's report stated that helicopter operators do not support the accusation that commercial pressure from their customers affects the safety of their operations and hotly dispute the suggestion made by Balpa (the British Airline Pilots Association).

"It is important for the CAA and industry to be given time to implement the recommendations from the CAA's Offshore Review. In the circumstances the Government does not support the call for a public inquiry on this issue.''

Louise Ellman, chair of the committee, said: "I am deeply disappointed that ministers have rejected our recommendation they should hold an independent inquiry to investigate offshore helicopter safety.

"This is a regrettable decision for the loved ones and relatives of people killed in offshore helicopter accidents. It sends the wrong signal to people who continue to work in the offshore industry.''

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