Dramatic Malaysian S-76C 2013 Ditching Video

Dramatic passenger-shot video footage of a helicopter ditching and rescue off Malaysia has emerged:

The Sikorsky S-76C 9M-STE (MSN 760398) of MHS Aviation, chartered by Malaysian oil and gas company Petronas, was on approach to a 3D seismic ship in the South China Sea on 12 December 2013. The 105m long, 9800GRT vessel has a 22m bow mounted helideck, approximately 20m above sea level.  She is capable of towing seismic ‘streamers’ of up to 9km in length. The vessel was 86 nm offshore Bintulu, Malaysia.  The video footage indicates that the vessel was underway with streamers deployed in light rain and ~1m waves.

CGS Chartered Viking Vision

On Approach (Credit: Passenger Video)

The helicopter makes a slow approach to the deck into wind and just as it positions ahead of the vessel, with the helideck to the left hand side, the audio indicates an engine power loss. At this point the passenger braces and video is temporarily lost as the aircraft ditches.  The soundtrack indicates that water was entering the cabin about 15 seconds after the engine rundown, and the passenger’s submerged lifejacket is briefly glimpsed.

Underwater (Credit: Passenger Video)

Underwater (Credit: Passenger Video)

The helicopter had 8 people on board (2 crew and 6 passengers).  All exited the aircraft.  The aircraft floatation system does not seem to have been deployed, and the aircraft appears to be floating, almost submerged on its left hand side.  It is understood to have subsequently sunk. While one aircraft liferaft seems to have deployed, it appears all occupants were promptly rescued from the water by fast rescue craft from the ship, which steamed on.

Survivors in the Water - Note the Streamer Tow Cables (Credit: Passenger Video)

Survivors in the Water – Note the Streamer Tow Cables (Credit: Passenger Video)

Petronas issued a press release that day.

Similar MHS Aviation Sikorsky S-76C 9M-STB – Note this Aircraft has the Widened Rear Cabin Windows and External Liferafts in the Under-door Pods (Credit: Peter Bakema)

The status of the Malaysian accident investigation is not known (see Ministry of Transport website).  However, it is known that the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) was requested to provide assistance in the download of the helicopter’s cockpit voice recorder (CVR). In late 2014 ATSB reported that the estimated completion date would be July 2015.

UPDATE 4 September 2015: The ATSB website revised that forecast to December 2015.

UPDATE 31 December 2015: This was our most popular article in 2015.

UPDATE 10 May 2016: The ATSB now forecast July 2016.

UPDATE 1 December 2016: The accident report is still awaited and the ATSB now forecast this month (the 3rd anniversary of the accident).

UPDATE 30 December 2016: This was our 2nd most popular article in 2016.

UPDATE 1 February 2017: The ATSB forecast for issue of the report has slipped to April 2017.

UPDATE 13 April 2017: The ATSB say the Malaysian final report has been issued, though it is yet to appear on the Ministry of Transport website.  We will monitor for its publication.

UPDATE 13 December 2017: Information received by Aerossurance is that disappointingly the ICAO Annex 13 report will not be made public.

Safety Resources

The European Safety Promotion Network Rotorcraft (ESPN-R) has a helicopter safety discussion group on LinkedIn.  You may also find these Aerossurance articles of interest:

UPDATE 23 March 2016: EASA published NPA 2016-01 Helicopter ditching and water impact occupant survivability on a 3 month public consultation period.

Previous studies on and accident investigations into helicopter ditchings and water impact events have highlighted inadequacies in the existing certification specifications (CS-27, CS-29) and in the rules governing offshore operations. In particular, it has been established that in an otherwise survivable water impact, most fatalities occurred as a result of drowning because the occupants were unable either to rapidly escape from a capsized and flooded cabin, or to survive in the sea for sufficient time until rescue. Furthermore, the testing environment in which helicopters are type-certified for ditching bears little resemblance to the sea conditions experienced in operation. In order to thoroughly address these and other ditching-related issues, and due to the nature of ditching-related hazards, this rulemaking task (RMT.0120 (27&29.008)) has taken a holistic approach to the problem, which crosses traditional airworthiness/operational boundaries. A detailed risk assessment has been undertaken that reflects both certification and operational experience and builds upon data extracted from accident reports and previous studies. The specific objective of this NPA, however, is to propose changes to CS-27 and CS-29… Retroactive rules are to be considered in a second phase of this RMT. …the primary change proposed aims to establish a new ditching certification methodology by which a target probability of capsize following a ditching can be determined based on the level of capsize mitigation applied to the design.

UPDATE 6 December 2017: The results of the EASA NPA are shortly going to be adopted into CS-27 and CS-29.

Aerossurance is an Aberdeen based aviation consultancy.  For proven expertise you can trust on offshore helicopter safety, airworthiness and certification, survivability matters, offshore helicopter operations standards & guidelines (inc IOGP Report 690 and FSF BARSOHO) and safety analysis, contact: enquiries@aerossurance.com

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