Operators say they are concerned that the aircraft may not return to full capability until next year. According to Bristow, the incidents and the subsequent grounding demonstrated just how important the helicopter has become to the offshore oil and gas industry. Speaking at the company's analyst day on April 10, Mark Duncan, senior vice president for commercial business, said that although the helicopter only represented around 5% of the cost of running oil and gas platforms, the loss of rotorcraft service “affects the other 95%”
“The incident has highlighted the criticality of our service,” Duncan said. “Security of supply [of helicopters] has become more important than the cost.”
While none of Bristow's helicopters were involved in the two incidents, the company, like other North Sea operators, was ordered to ground its fleet. For Bristow, this means 16 of its aircraft remain parked. In the days immediately after the grounding, the company had just two helicopters available to service the platforms.
Six months later, the company is only now returning to full-fleet strength, achieved via the arrival of new S-92s and by repositioning its international fleet, as well as by pulling old Aerospatiale AS332Ls, known as Bristow Tigers, out of retirement.
Despite the grounding, the aircraft in both its military and civil variants is in full production, and Eurocopter plans to ramp-up output in 2014 with an extension to the Marignane assembly line.