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Nigeria suspends choppers after crashes

05 February 2016, 08:08

Lagos — Nigeria's aviation regulatory agency is suspending operation of all Sikorsky model S-76C++ helicopters following two crashes in six months in the West African country, the director general said Thursday.

One helicopter crash-landed off an oil rig in the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday. Nine passengers and two crew members were rescued from the sea, emergency management officials said.

Another Sikorsky nose-dived Aug. 10 into a lagoon in Lagos, the commercial capital, killing six of the 12 people on board including the American pilot and Nigerian co-pilot.

The U.S.-made aircraft are operated in Nigeria by Bristow, a Houston, Texas-based company that provides air services to offshore oil and gas companies.

"The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority has therefore decided to suspend the operation of the Bristow Helicopters Sikorsky S-76C++ type till further notice" pending "a full audit," director general Capt. Muhtar Usman said Thursday.

He said the temporary ban from Nigerian airspace took effect Wednesday. Bristow said in a statement that it has complied, calling the order "standard practice" following the "controlled water-landing."

But the helicopters were not suspended from service after the August accident.

In a preliminary report into that crash published in September, Nigeria's Accident Investigation Bureau said the control pushrod assembly had failed — the tube had separated from the control rod end with the bearing and the jamnut was loose. It described a fault that could lead to loss of control of the aircraft and recommended that Sikorsky "should consider a redesign of the affected control pushrod."

The Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. headquartered in Stratford, Connecticut, did not immediately respond to AP requests for comment.

Bristow said Wednesday's crash-landing occurred near Lagos. Nigerian officials said the chopper went down about 110 miles (175 kilometers) from Lagos in the Niger Delta. There was no quick way to resolve the discrepancy Thursday night.

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- AP


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