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Offshore helicopter crashes prompt NTSB safety recommendations

Washington – In response to a pair of helicopter crashes near offshore oil platforms, the National Transportation Safety Board has published several safety recommendations aimed at preventing similar incidents.

A Bell 206-L3 helicopter crashed shortly after taking off from a platform in the Gulf of Mexico on March 24, 2011, and a Bell 407 helicopter crashed under similar circumstances Aug. 13, 2013. In both cases, pilots and passengers sustained minor injuries when the helicopter hit the water.

Investigators learned that both helicopters lost engine power shortly after takeoff, and that the power loss likely was due to “inadvertent ingestion of methane gas that was being vented in the vicinity.” Offshore oil platforms include booms that release unburned gases such as methane, which is both colorless and odorless.

NTSB’s recommendations include:

  • Identify and develop systems to help reduce the risk of raw gas discharges to helicopters near offshore oil platforms.
  • Require platform operators to implement the systems, once complete.
  • Have the American Petroleum Institute revise its recommended practices to address the venting of gases such as methane as a risk to turbine-powered helicopters in the vicinity.