Bristow Flight 56C was a helicopter flight that flew between Aberdeen and oil rigs in the North Sea. On 19 January 1995 the Super Puma helicopter was struck by lightning. The flight was carrying 16 oil workers from Aberdeen to an oil platform at the Brae oilfield. All people on board survived.
En route the helicopter ran into poor weather and was then struck by lightning. This caused severe damage to the tail rotor. Though the helicopter managed to limp for a few more minutes, the tail rotor eventually failed completely and the pilot was forced to perform an emergency autorotation onto the rough seas. Emergency floaters on the helicopter allowed the passengers and crew to be evacuated onto a life raft. In spite of the high waves and bad weather, all the people on board the flight were rescued.
The lightning strike was an isolated one in the storm, and may have been induced by the helicopter flying through the cloud. The accident investigation also revealed potential troubles with the composite material with brass strip design of the rotors which made the rotorblades prone to explosion and damage from lightning strikes.
The incident was featured in the Mayday/Air Crash Investigation episode "Helicopter Down".
- Report Aerospatiale AS332L Super Puma, G-TIGK: Main document. Compiled by E J Trimble, Air Accidents Investigations Branch, Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions, July 1997
- CAA progress report for 1998 (p. 29)
- CAA progress report for 1997 (p. 26)