ANAC, Gabon’s main aviation authority in the capital Libreville announced the crash of a Bell 212 helicopter on Tuesday March 14th 2012 killing the two crews piloting the aircraft; a French and Austrian national. The helicopter went down at approximately at 1:30pm local time (8:30am New York time) while taking part in oil exploration/ seismic operations on behalf of the Perenco Oil company with CCG Veritas Services SA of France acting as the main contracting party. The crash site near the Iguela marsh land area, is located in Gabon’s southwest oil-producing hub, not far from the tiny oil-producing nation economic capital of Port-Gentil.
The Bell 212 helicopter registered D-HALS is owned by HELOG Lufttransport KG, a German company with advertised experience in providing helicopter transport solutions for seismic, off shore, MEDEVAC, government, outsize sling cargo load and training operations in Africa.
According to its web site, Helog has owned or operated until recently a mix of at least 2 SA 330 Puma helicopters, 4 Textron Bell 212/412 helicopters, 1 Eurocopter EC 145 helicopter and 1 Cessna Caravan from bases as diverse as Salzburg/Austria in Europe and Khartoum/Sudan, Heglig/Sudan, Abidjan/Ivory Coast, Conakry/Guinea and Freetown/Sierra Leone in Africa.
The Salzburg main base is also accredited to handle line and base maintenance operations in cooperation with Aerotechnik GmBH. It is in Sudan (Heglig) where Helog also conducts line maintenance that the Bell 212 were initially deployed in March 2008. The two aircraft initially leased from Agrarflug- Helilift of Ahlen, Germany arrived to support two SA 330 Puma helicopters providing oil fields logistical support.
In Sierra Leone Helog has operated via its “HELOG Aviation Sierra Leone Ltd” affiliate since being registered in 2005 using a SA 330J Puma helicopter. Recently, the company claimed it invested over half a million US Dollars to refurbish a Hovercraft to link Lungi International Airport to Freetown’s Aberdeen main land section.
In Guinea, two Bell 412 and one Bell 212 helicopters have also been stationed in Conakry as part of new offshore oil exploitation operation.
The seismic operation underway in Gabon follows up on the Anglo-French company Perenco recently awarded permit of exploitation. There the company has relied since 1992 on a combination of 29 off- and on-shore oil fields to produce 65,000 barrels daily.