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Puma Flights To Resume As Black Box Found
Super Puma helicopter flights are to resume in the coming days, it has been decided, as the flight recorders from the aircraft which crashed off Shetland were recovered.
The helicopter plunged into the sea as it approached Sumburgh airport on the southern tip of Shetland on Friday, killing three men and one woman.
Due to the "nature of the environment" where the wreckage was located, the search for the black box had proved challenging as searchers were unable to pinpoint its exact location.
A statement from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said: "The combined voice and flight data recorder from the AS332 L2 Super Puma helicopter has been successfully recovered and will be transported to the AAIB HQ in Farnborough later today."
An earlier statement had said the helicopter appeared to proceed normally until three miles from the runway when there was a "reduction in airspeed accompanied by an increased rate of descent".
"The helicopter struck the sea approximately two miles west of the Runway 09 threshold," it said.
"The evidence currently available suggests that the helicopter was intact and upright when it entered the water. It then rapidly inverted and drifted northwards towards Garths Ness.
"The helicopter was largely broken up by repeated contact with the rocky shoreline."
Both engines, the gearbox and the rotor head of the Super Puma were recovered from the sea earlier.
Representatives from across the oil and gas industry decided to lift the suspension on flights of all models of the Super Puma, imposed after the crash, at a meeting of the Helicopter Safety Steering Group on Thursday.
The L2 model, the type involved in the tragedy, will not be initially used to transport workers.
The helicopters account for more than 50% of all flights to and from North Sea platforms, with other aircraft and boats brought in to cover the shortfall during the suspension.
It comes after the Government was urged to hold a public inquiry to examine the safety of helicopter transport in the North Sea.
Labour MP Frank Doran called on Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to establish a wide-ranging inquiry after the deaths of the oil workers.
Mr Doran, MP for Aberdeen North, said the crash was the latest in a series of incidents involving helicopters transporting North Sea oil workers.
He argued a public inquiry, similar to the one held after the Piper Alpha disaster, could help restore confidence in the industry, which was now suffering from a "collapse in morale".
The crash was the fifth incident involving Super Pumas in the North Sea since 2009.
In April 2009 an AS332 L2, operated by Bond, went down north-east of Peterhead on its return from a BP platform, killing all 14 passengers and two crew on board.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: "We have received Mr Doran's letter and will reply in due course."