FAA issues new airworthiness directives for EC225s
The Federal Aviation Administration has issued new airworthiness standards for the troubled Airbus EC225LP ‘Super Puma’.
The new airworthiness directive requires owners to: “Determine the total hours of time-in-service (TIS) of the free wheel shafts of certain main rotor gearboxes (MGB), replace the MGB or right-hand side (RH) free wheel shaft, installing placard(s), and revising the Rotorcraft Flight Manual (RFM) for your helicopter,” according to the FAA directives.
The revised airworthiness standards were prompted by several reports of wear on the ramps on the right-hand wheel shaft, which resulted in several high-profile accidents. The new standards will become effective on 5 November 2019.
The FAA invites comments and feedbacks on the directives from other industry people, with the deadline for the submission and receive dates of the comments being 20 December 2019.
Issues with the helicopters main rotor gearbox was identified in 2012 following the crash of a Bond Offshore Helicopters which, following an investigation was due to a gearbox failure. The Helicopter was carrying 19 people, all of which survived.
As a result, several UK operators, including Bond and Bristow grounded the helicopter. Eventually resuming services until the very public crash of the CHC operated H225 Super Puma in Norway in 2016. Since then the aircraft has been grounded in several countries and even in those it remains operational, many pilots still refuse to fly in the aircraft.
There is now an oversupply of H225s in the market and only select markets are ordering pre-owned 225s. Last quarter, one pre-owned H225 was sold, bringing the total number year-to-date to three. Over this period, it has sold for an average price of approximately $4.3 million.
In 2017, one of the largest US operators ERA recorded a right down of $117 million in its third-quarter earnings report, primarily due to a reappraisal of its 225 fleet which it valued similarly at $4 million.
The new airworthiness directives aim to address the gearbox issues that caused these crashes and EASA’s re-evaluation of the aircraft – which it approved for airworthiness in 2016.
In the newly-released standards, FAA issued a statement saying: “The FAA is issuing this AD after evaluating all information provided by EASA and determining the unsafe condition exists and is likely to exist or develop on other helicopters of the same type design.”