Chinedu Eze

Bristow Helicopters (Nigeria) Limited announced yesterday that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has approved the return of Sikorsky S-76 aircraft to service following completion of the authority’s comprehensive operational audit.

The helicopter type was grounded by NCAA after it was involved in two accidents; on August 3, 2014, where six out of 12 souls on board lost their lives and another on February 3, 2016 where controlled ditching in the Atlantic Ocean, about 75 nautical miles to Lagos, saved the lives of nine passengers and two crew on board the chopper.

“We thank the NCAA for conducting a thorough review of our operations,” said Bristow Group Vice President, Global Operations, Mike Imlach.

“We completed a detailed safety inspection of our S-76 series helicopters and test flights for all [16] S-76 aircraft in compliance with the NCAA. Our Group president and CEO, Jonathan Baliff, was a passenger in one of the approved non-revenue test flights to demonstrate his confidence in the safety of our S-76 fleet”, he added.

The company said it had concluded a number of return to service safety activities with flight crews, engineers and other service employees, clients and key stakeholders, as an additional precautionary measure prior to resuming the S-76 fleet to operation.

“These activities include maintenance assessment reviews, risk assessment, and pre-flight safety briefings with passengers to give them the opportunity to talk to the crew and ask questions,” Bristow said.

The company said it has also engaged a reputable independent third party aviation firm to conduct an additional review of its entire operations in Nigeria. Bristow proposes that the review be extended to other operators in Nigeria so that best practices can be shared to enhance safety across the industry, and has commenced discussions with a number of operators regarding their participation. Bristow noted that it was in full compliance with NCAA regulatory requirements and all Sikorsky directives for its fleet.

The company also said it maintains its aircraft to industry standards in accordance with special maintenance and monitoring programs developed by the aircraft and engine manufacturers that are fully approved by the NCAA.