NCAA suspends Bristow Helicopters Sikorsky S-76C++ aircraft

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Wednesday suspended the operation of American-made Sikorsky S-76C++ chopper by Bristow Helicopters, till further notice​, a day after a chopper operated by the company crashed.​

Director-General of the NCAA, Muhtar Usman, announced this while briefing ​journalists on Thursday in Lagos.

He said the suspension would enable the NCAA to carry out a full scale audit on its operations, with particular emphasis on its Sikorsky S-76C++ type.

The S-76 C++ helicopter marked 5N-BQJ belonging to Bristow Helicopters, enroute Lagos from an off shore location, ​crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday.

All​ ​11 people on board, including two crew members were, however, rescued alive.

“T​hese decisions are without prejudice to the investigations being conducted by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB)​,” Mr. Usman said.​

“As a matter of fact, it will serve to assist in the entire process. The authority will fully support AIB in the investigation.

“Therefore, the regulatory authority views with utmost seriousness the successive mishaps of Bristow Helicopters’ operating aircraft, Sikorsky S-76C++, on the coastal waters of Lagos.

“The NCAA has therefore decided to suspend the operation of the Bristow Helicopters’ Sikorsky S-76C++ type, till further notice,” Mr. Usman, a captain, said.

He recalled that on August 12, 2015, a Bristow Helicopter-operated Sikorsky S-76 series crashed around the Oworonshoki axis in Lagos.

“What this means is that Wednesday’s incident is occurring a little over six months, after the preceding one.

“Therefore, as a responsible regulatory authority, it is important to stem this rapidity of occurrence and ensure that the airline carries out safe operations,” Mr. Usman said.

The director-general explained that the suspension of operations for the impending wholesale audit was not a vote of no confidence on the airline.

According to him, it is to ascertain the adequacy and propriety of the operating aircraft type, which is one of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) all over the world.

Mr. Usman reiterated that the NCAA would continue to ensure that airline operators continue to carry out safe and secure operations.

​The Sikorsky S-76 aircraft is an American medium-sized commercial utility helicopter manufactured by the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation.

The S-76 features twin turbo shaft engines​,​ a four-bladed main and tail rotors, with a retractable landing gear.

The Sikorsky’s development began in the mid 1970s with the design goal of providing a medium helicopter for corporate transportation and the oil drilling industry.

The prototype first flew on March 13, 1977, while initial U.S. Federal Aviation Administration type certification was granted on Nov. 21, 1978.