Five years later - Cougar Flight 91 Anniversary

Five years ago today, Cougar Flight 491 crashed into the North Atlantic near St. John's, breaking the collective heart of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Seventeen people died and only one survived. Since then, the crash, the victims and the questions raised in the aftermath have never been too far from our memory.

What's changed; what still needs to happen

Hear Robert Wells in conversation with the CBC's Chris O'Neill-Yates.

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Robert Wells, the man who helmed the Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry, says some things have changed for the better, including:

  • A dedicated first-response fully equipped helicopter that can be wheels up in 15 to 20 minutes, which Wells calls "world class."
  • Exxon Mobil (HMDC) spent $3.8 million on a new training facility in Foxtrap where it can replicate different weather conditions. It exceeds what Wells saw in the North Sea.
  • Improved immersion suits that now have three sizes, and individual fittings.
  • Kiosks that give passengers flight information.
  • Forums where everybody can discuss safety issues.

What still needs to be changed

Wells says the biggest recommendation not implemented is the 30-minute run dry - the length of time a helicopter can run when it has a catastrophic loss of oil. "Thirty-minute run dry is in the hands of the FAA and Sikorsky. [We] still don't have that and I don't know where that's going or where that is. Very little has been said," Wells says.


* Times are in Universal Time Co-ordinated