Faulty tail rotor, inflation system in deadly N.L. chopper crash, probe finds

A helicopter that crashed off Newfoundland’s east coast earlier this year, killing 17 people, lost control because of a faulty tail rotor and its inflation collar system did not work when it slammed into the Atlantic Ocean, federal investigators said Thursday.

Offshore oil workers clad in survival suits are visible through the windows of a Cougar helicopter at St. John's International Airport Wednesday

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — A helicopter that crashed off Newfoundland’s east coast earlier this year, killing 17 people, lost control because of a faulty tail rotor and its inflation collar system did not work when it slammed into the Atlantic Ocean, federal investigators said Thursday.

The federal Transportation Safety Board released an update into its probe in the deadly March 12 crash and found that while the main rotor blades continued to rotate when the chopper crashed, the tail rotor drive gears were severely damaged.

The pilots of the Sikorsky S-92A, which was ferrying workers to offshore oil platforms, lost steering control in the flight’s final moments because of the tail rotor failure, lead Transportation Safety Board investigator Mike Cunningham said in an interview.

“Without that tail rotor drive, your directional control ability is much more difficult,” Cunningham said.

“In other words, the nose is going up, then the nose is going down and it’s rolling to the left and it’s rolling to the right.”

In addition to steering control, the tail rotor plays a supplementary role in keeping the helicopter in the air, Cunningham said.

Investigators also found that when Cougar Flight 491 crashed, its inflation collar system did not work as it was supposed to.

“The helicopter experienced significant forces during the impact with the water, and examination of the inflation bottles indicates that they had not released their compressed gas to inflate the flotation collars,” the agency said in its update.

“The reason the collars failed to inflate is still under investigation.”

The flotation collars are intended to keep the helicopter afloat in the event of a landing on water.

Investigators also found that the titanium oil filter attachment studs “revealed fatigue cracking in the studs as well as evidence of thread damage.”

The Transportation Safety Board said investigators were still trying to determine the origin of the fatigue cracks in the studs. It has previously said that the titanium mounting studs that attach an oil filter bowl assembly to the main gearbox broke during the flight.

The studs have since been replaced with steel under a directive issued by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

The helicopter, piloted by two crew members, crashed about 65 kilometres southeast of St. John’s as it was carrying workers to two offshore oil platforms.

One man, Robert Decker, survived the crash.

Just Posted

PHOTO: Rainbow Block Party at Red Deer’s West Park

The Trans and Non-Binary Aid Society hosted a Rainbow Block Party at… Continue reading

Blood donations needed in Central Alberta: Canadian Blood Services

357 donors are needed before Aug. 26 at the Red Deer clinic

Warkentin seeks UCP nomination

Another nominee for Red Deer North

WATCH: Annual Family Picnic at Central Spray and Play

Blue Grass Sod Farms Ltd. held the Annual Family Picnic at the… Continue reading

Photos: Smoky conditions in Red Deer

Red Deer and area is experiencing high risk air quality.See related: Red… Continue reading

Committee to decide how millions in Humboldt Broncos donations are split

SASKATOON — Lawyers for the families of some of those who died… Continue reading

Boy, 11, dies after being struck by payloader on southern Alberta ranch

BOW ISLAND, Alta. — A boy has died after an accident on… Continue reading

Liberals look at creating federal holiday to mark legacy of residential schools

OTTAWA — The federal Liberal government wants to establish a holiday to… Continue reading

Thousands of police officers expected at regimental funeral in Fredericton

FREDERICTON — Thousands of police officers and first responders from across the… Continue reading

B.C. declares state of emergency over wildfires

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government has declared a provincial state of… Continue reading

As service refusals make headlines, experts say businesses usually in the wrong

Two Canadian businesses that recently made headlines for refusing customers have learned… Continue reading

Irregular asylum claims increased in July after two months of decline

OTTAWA — The number of irregular border crossers in Canada went up… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month