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Thursday 12th
posted by Rory MacKinnon in Britain

OFFSHORE union RMT slated First Minister Alex Salmond yesterday for failing to tackle offshore drilling bosses over dangerous helicopter ditchings.

The union criticised the First Minister’s stance on health and safety as he promised “stability” for the industry’s beancounters at a conference in Aberdeen — with scant reference to a slew of fatal helicopter crashes and emergency landings.

The minister’s appearance was scheduled the same day as analysts from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch revealed that two commuter flights which ditched in the North Sea in 2012 each lost oil pressure due to a crack in the main rotor gearbox.

Investigators said the helicopters’ emergency lubrication systems kicked in correctly, which should have given the crews 30 minutes to reach land. Yet a warning light triggered in each craft, indicating that the back-up system had failed and that their crews should ditch the helicopters immediately.

Further investigations continue into the fatal ditching of two Super Puma flights in 2009 and 2013 in which 20 people died.

But the First Minister has so far resisted calls for a full public inquiry into offshore helicopter safety, with yesterday’s address instead praising “enterprise ingenuity” and promising no new taxes.

“The Scottish government understands the importance of stability and certainty for Scotland’s energy sector to continue to prosper,” he told attendees at Oil and Gas UK.

RMT offshore organiser Jake Molloy told the Morning Star he was disappointed the Mr Salmond had not seized on the speech as a chance to announce a public inquiry.

“If he had the political will to do so it would have been a perfect opportunity. But as we’re all too aware, he’s taking no real action on health and safety,” Mr Molloy said. The bureau’s findings had only underscored the risks of offshore flight, he said — a false positive on a warning light was just as dangerous as a back-up that was genuinely failing.

“Every action by the crew is dictated by procedure. As soon as they [saw] that light, they had to ditch.

“The crew there each did a fantastic job, but ditching is a risky manoeuvre — especially in the conditions they might face in the North Sea,” he said.