Scottish Parliament debate on offshore helicopters
24/10/17 Reverse order Timestamp format
The afternoon session is underway at Holyrood. However we're expecting the Super Puma debate to be one of the last pieces of business. A debate on banning fracking will also be live blogged on Energy Voice.
The debate on fracking is coming to an end with closing speeches.
We're not sure of exact timings for the Super Puma safety debate but it is listed as the next piece of business that the MSPs are due to hear.
To set some context, there are 25 H225s registered in the UK fleet. There are six registered AS332L2s, according to trade body Oil and Gas UK's latest figures.
The ban on the two models of aircraft came in after 13 people died off Turoy in Norway.
The CAA declared them fit to fly again in July this year although Energy Voice understands none are currently flying.
The European aviation watchdog EASA lifted the flight ban before the UK and Norwegian authorities.
Manufacturers Airbus have made a number of safety changes following the Turoy accident. This included 2,000 hours of testing and the involvement of 370 experts who helped with the crash probe.
Other improvements include
-A more robust gearbox design
-An improved detection system to show 'spalling' earlier
-A new quality assurance process
A survey by Airbus found the following:
·62% of H225 passengers are uncomfortable and unlikely to ever fly again.
·Passengers want more shoulder and leg room in the H225, primarily for safety reasons but also for increased comfort on long journeys.
·Airbus needs to do more work educating H225 passengers about changes to increase aircraft safety, as only 44% of passengers were aware of new precautionary measures.
·Passengers have a strong desire to have H225 technical issues explained by a technical expert.
As of today, 157H225 and AS332 Mark helicopters are flying worldwide in military, search and rescue and public services missions. 26 are flying oil and gas missions, globally.
Energy minister Paul Wheelhouse is now closing the fracking debate with a very swift speech as time is pressing on.
This is Lewis Macdonald's motion in full:Workforce Concerns Regarding Helicopter Safety in the North Sea
That the Parliament understands that the Civil Aviation Authority has lifted the ban on the use of Superpuma H225LP and AS332L2 helicopters in the UK despite continuing concerns over the safety of these helicopters among offshore workers; further understands that Airbus, the manufacturer of Superpuma helicopters, has carried out a survey of North Sea workers and aircrew in order to establish their attitudes towards helicopter safety; notes the finding that 62% of respondents would be unlikely to fly in a Superpuma helicopter, given a choice; further notes that 44% of respondents were unaware of work done to improve safety since the Superpuma crash in April 2016, including increased monitoring and inspection measures and more regular replacement of gearbox components; recognises that Unite the Union has launched a petition opposing the reintroduction of the Superpuma helicopters, signed by thousands of offshore workers in the North East Scotland parliamentary region and across the country, who remain concerned about their safety and reputation, and notes calls for flights in these Superpuma helicopters to not resume.
Here's the Energy minister, almost done...
Some more facts from Oil and Gas UK:At the end of 2016 the UK offshore helicopter fleet numbered 96.
The mix includes Leonardo AW139s (19 in fleet), Airbus AS365N3 (2), Airbus H155 (2), Airbus H175 (2), Leonardo AW189 (3) and Sikorksy S92 (37).
The AS332 and H225s make up the remaining numbers.
The Super Puma debate is about to get underway at Holyrood.
First up Lewis Macdonald, who is getting seven minutes to open the debate
Mr Macdonald, a north-east Labour MSP, is setting the scene by explaining the 'journey to work' that oil workers make.
The MSP said: "It is not the same as taking the bus."
He said helicopter safety was an issue of "utmost importance" to the offshore workforce.
Mr Macdonald: "Super Puma helicopters do not feel safe to many of those who are asked to get on them."
Mr Macdonald is now addressing the results of the Airbus survey and the Norwegian accident.
And he's now moved on to the steps that Airbus has made but points out that the safety overhaul does not "guarantee" the future safety of offshore flights.
Mark McDonald, SNP MSP for Aberdeen Donside, has interjected to point out that his constituents are among some of those most affected, due to the proximity to the North Sea and the Dyce heliport.
Iain Stuart from Laurencekirk was among those killed in the Norway accident.
The area's MSP Mairi Gougeon, who represents Angus North and Mearns, is now speaking to the chamber.
One of her first questions after being elected last May was regarding Super Puma safety.
She met with Airbus last week for a briefing, she tells the gathered MSPs.
"Wider comunities also need to be informed of the changes that have been made", she tells the chamber.
"I would only support the return of this helicopter if the workforce has the confidence in it, " Ms Gougeon states, finishing her speech.
The Scottish Conservative's Alexander Burnett is now speaking.
"The problem that Airbus face is to regain the confidence of the workforce."
"It is too early to call on an all-out ban", he tells the chamber.
Mr Burnett said that Airbus must be "given time" to engage stakeholders and the workforce in the safety changes that have been made since the Norway accident.
Next up is Labour Richard Leonard.
Mr Leonard said MSPs "first duty" must be in securing the safety of industrial workers.
He said it is "abundantly clear" why the Unite the union campaign had changed from a 'get back home' slogan to a 'no return for the Super Puma'.
"We in this parliament are on your side and it is our duty to make sure these tragedies never happen again", Mr Leonard.
The SNP's Gillian Martin is up next
The Aberdeenshire East MSP says the helicopters used in the North Sea must be "as safe as possible".
Ms Martin has experienced first hand a helicopter flight offshore several times when she ran her own business.
Three out of four North Sea workers are "unhappy" about boarding a Super Puma, according to Ms Martin.
"The death of 13 people off the coast of Norway was a real turning point" she said.
She also mentions Stuart Wood, 27, who died in a similar North Sea helicopter crash in 2009.
The debate has now been extended for 30 minutes after a last minute motion.
Neil Bibby MSP is now speaking.
"Serious and fundmental" questions to be asked about Super Puma aircraft, according to Mr Bibby.
"Engagement with the trade unions must be a priority" Mr Bibby says.
"We need to get to the bottom of why the safety of the aircraft is such an issue in the UK and Norway" he said.
Graeme Dey up now.
He's referencing the Airbus CEO's trip in a H225 last month.
"Those expressing concerns are men and women that earn their living in harsh environments so if they are as spooked as they are..."
33 families lost loved ones due to accidents, Mr Dey points out
No final report and no definitive cause for the Norway accident, Mr Dey points out.
"We need to proceed extremely cautiously."
Tom Mason, north-east Conservative MSP, says his own son works offshore.
He said the only experts on the matter are the aeronautical engineers.
"The lessons of the past must be learned."
Mr Mason points out the massive strides taken since the early days of North Sea offshore flights
"We should trust the expertise of the CAA and EASA," Mr Mason said.
Labour's Elaine Smith gets the floor.
"The facts speak for themselves, the Super Puma has been responsible for the death of 33 workers in the North Sea and 65 others have had to be rescued."
The RMT are calling for a full independent inquiry into offshore helicopter operations, Ms Smith tells the chamber.
First mention of 'flying coffin', by Elaine Smith. The phrase was coined by a union chief in a national newspaper over the weekend.
"Beyond belief" that Super Pumas could be returned to service without an independent inquiry, Ms Smith says.
"Is it any wonder that workers don't want to travel in these helicopters and who could blame them. These Super Pumas must stay grounded."
The Scottish Greens' Patrick Harvie is paying his respects to those affected by helicopter tragedies.
Mr Harvie said that the oil and gas downturn had led to concerns about offshore safety. He has congratulated Lewis Macdonald on bringing the debate to parliament.
"When rail crashes take place we see an immediate response in the way the public react to their rail operators," Mr Harvie said.
"That question of trust is something we can all relate to", he adds.
Greens have joined the call for an independent inquiry.
Transport Minister Humza Yousaf has the floor.
"There are very few professions whereby the travel to that place of work is so hazardous," Mr Yousaf tells the chamber.
Mr Yousaf said union and workforce engagement was key to the issue.
The lifting of the restrictions has "clearly" raised concerns, Mr Yousaf said.
It is "critical" for Airbus to try and reinstate confidence in the Super Puma, Mr Yousaf said.