Ex­ec­u­tive says chop­per crash changed him

Cape Breton Post - - NEWS/WEATHER -

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.

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