UPDATE 1-Eurocopter defends Super Puma record after UK crash
PARIS, Sept 3 (Reuters) - The head of the company that manufactures Super Puma helicopters defended their safety record as UK oilfield flights resumed after a fatal crash last month, and said deliveries of the latest model had recovered following modifications.
"The worldwide safety records of this family are the best in industry," said Guillaume Faury, chief executive of Eurocopter, the world's largest commercial helicopter maker.
Faury nonetheless pledged to address oil workers' concerns over safety in the UK sector of the North Sea, where helicopter services out of Aberdeen are dominated by Super Pumas.
"We are really concerned by this situation. We want to contribute to the work that is being conducted to improve safety in the North Sea, especially in the UK."
The BBC reported that a Super Puma, of a different type to the one that crashed last month, resumed flying on Tuesday.
Four people were killed when a variant called the L2 crashed, in the fifth incident involving the Super Puma range since 2009. The L2 version remains grounded by operators.
Britain's Civil Aviation Authority said on Friday it did not believe the accident was caused by an airworthiness or technical problem and backed operators' decision to resume some flights.
However, the country's Air Accidents Investigation Branch said last week it could not yet identify the accident's causes, whie unions have called for more assurances on airworthiness.
A helicopter industry source said the latest evidence culled from the scene of the crash had confirmed a dearth of immediate evidence of technical problems. He said the investigation was expected to focus on "environmental or human" factors.
A spokesman for the Unite union reiterated concerns over the safety of offshore flights and called for more evidence to show that the Super Puma helicopters re-entering service were safe.
Flights of the latest version of the Super Puma, the EC225, were suspended after two ditchings last year. The ban was lifted after European regulators approved modifications at mid-year.
Eurocopter has warned that sales and deliveries of the EC225 suffered in the first half of the year as buyers waited for the supension to be lifted, fuelling concerns that the EADS subsidiary would lose further business to its rivals.
Faury said the backlog had now been cleared, but acknowledged the sales climate was "very competitive".
"We have had a very high rate of deliveries in July and August, which means we have recovered the situation. ... Bookings and deliveries are back to very satisfactory rates and we should see a normal situation when looking over 12 months."
Europe's Eurocopter competes mainly with United Technologies unit Sikorsky and AgustaWestland, a unit of Italy's Finmeccanica.
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