Africa’s largest oil and gas helicopter operator, SonAir, has become the first operator to resume passenger transportation flights with the suspended EC225 fleet. Three flights were performed successfully with two EC225 helicopters from Luanda to two offshore platforms.
Based in Angola, SonAir is the aviation division of Sonangol, Angola’s national oil company. Its resumption of EC225 rotations for the oil and gas sector marks a new step in the return-to-service status for the full EC225 fleet worldwide.
“The three flights were routine, confirming that the EC225’s service restart is backed by strong safety measures that give confidence to our clients,” said said João Andrade, SonAir’s Chairman and CEO.
The grounding followed two incidents off Aberdeen and Shetland last year. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said it approved a proposed gear box technical solution from Eurocopter allowing the EC225 to be given the all clear to fly again, if they passed new safety checks.
SonAir has a total of 11 EC225 helicopters located at its Luanda, Angola operating base. Nine of these are dedicated to crew change missions for offshore oil and gas platforms. SonAir’s Eurocopter fleet of aircraft also includes four AS332 L2 and three AS365 N3 helicopters.
“Eurocopter thanks SonAir and for its confidence in the EC225,” stated Guillaume Faury, President and CEO Eurocopter.
“These first flights were possible thanks to a strong collaboration. Eurocopter remains fully committed to supporting this major oil and gas industry service provider in performing its very demanding missions.”
The EC225 is an 11-ton-class helicopter in Eurocopter Super Puma family. The aircraft type has more than 300,000 flight hours currently logged in service worldwide, it is deployed in civil, military and parapublic operations that range from offshore transportation and cargo airlift to search and rescue (SAR) duties.