Executive says chopper crash changed him
ST. JOHN’S, N.L. (CP) — The general manager of Cougar Helicopters says last year’s crash of an offshore chopper in the North Atlantic that killed 17 people has changed the helicopter company forever.
In his testimony Tuesday at an inquiry into helicopter safety off Newfoundland, Rick Burt said the company paid a heavy price in the crash.
“Cougar Helicopters, too, lost a lot of friends on March 12, it was a pretty devastating day for our organization,” he said.
He said the inquiry is important in understanding what happened the day the Sikorsky S-92 went down, killing all but one person on board.
“In the nine months since that point, there’s been time of healing, reflection and review of everything that’s happened,” Burt said. “And this process, I think, is essential to continue on with that.”
He also paid tribute to Robert Decker, the lone survivor, for what he described as the courage Decker showed in his testimo- ny at the inquiry.
The probe was called after Cougar Flight 491 crashed into the North Atlantic about 60 kilometres east of St. John’s as it headed out to offshore oil rigs.
Burt, who is also a vice-president of Cougar’s parent company, VIH Aviation, gave the inquiry an overview of Cougar’s corporate structure, the safety agencies that regulate the Sikorsky S-92A and why that model of helicopter was chosen by the company for its largely offshore clientele.
He said the S-92A was selected over the Eurocopter EC225 because Sikorsky had a flight simulator that could be used for training. Eurocopter’s was not yet ready.
Burt detailed some of the maintenance schedules for the helicopters.
The inquiry led by Commissioner Robert Wells was called to help ensure offshore helicopter travel is as safe as possible.
The Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the cause of last year’s helicopter crash.