If Super Pumas are grounded, why not the governor’s (and what was that ‘other’ helicopter at the ski marathon)?

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A Super Puma helicopter that killed 13 people when it crashed off the coast of west Norway on Friday is a “next generation” model of the two rescue helicopters used by The Governor of Svalbard, so a worldwide grounding of the fleet doesn’t apply to the local aircraft, according to officials.

“They have an entirely different rotor system and gearboxes,” Svalbard Gov. Kjerstin Askholt told NRK. “But Lufttransport continues to maintain contact with Airbus and the Norwegian Civil Aviation Authority in the event circumstances change.”

The crash as the plane was returning from an oil platform – after returning to its base twice due to safety alerts – has resulted in an online petition signed by more than 23,000 people calling for the Airbus EC225 Super Puma to be permanently removed from service, with some backers noting a gearbox failure caused another crash in 2009 that killed 16 people.

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A rescuer clings to one of the Super Puma helicopters used by The Governor of Svalbard as it hovers over a glacier. Photo courtesy of Eurocopter.

The Super Puma model used by the governor’s office is an Airbus AS 332 L1.

Some questioned if the governor’s Super Pumas were affected by the grounding when the helicopter that “escorted” participants from the start line in Saturday’s Svalbard Skimaraton was a red model rather than the local aircraft that are white with red trim. Rupert Krapp, a research engineer at the Norwegian Polar Institute responding to a Facebook inquiry, noted it’s an identical model “with the Icelandic Coast Guard’s color scheme, but a SMS logo on the door.”

“This one has been here before and is here to relieve/replace one of the local aircraft which have Lufttransport color schemes,” he wrote.