Friday, June 14, 2013

The Ubiquitous Super Puma

Aberdeen is called the "Energy Capital of Europe", and Aberdeen Airport in Dyce plays a big role in the offshore energy industry by serving as a base of operations for multiple commercial aviation companies servicing oil rigs in the North Sea. The most common vehicle used by companies such as Bond Aviation Group, Bristow Group, and CHC Helicopter, is the Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma. That picture above was taken during my infamous trip to Shetland, while I was waiting for the ferry that I eventually gave up on. Aside from the energy industry, I'm not sure what other purposes they serve at Shetland's various small airports, but they're omnipresent in Aberdeen. When I see them - often flying directly past my block of flats - they're generally flying on a southeasterly course headed out to see, or a northwesterly course headed back to the airport in Dyce. I have no idea what the standard helicopter in the States must be - maybe the Bell 206 JetRanger (the only helicopter I've ever flown on)? - but I've never been anywhere other than Aberdeen where I saw so many of them going at any given time.

There have been several high profile accidents involving Super Pumas over the last several years. One in 2009 caused a number of deaths, while less costly accidents in May and October of last year have caused lengthy and costly flight suspensions while the aircraft in question were examined and the remainder of the fleet was inspected. Having experienced rough seas during my October passage to Orkney, I can imagine that taking a helicopter out to an oil rig in the middle of the North Sea must be a lot more comfortable than taking one of the small ships - much smaller than the Hrossey or the Hjaltland - that the oil industry uses to transport men and equipment to and fro.

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