Oil & Gas UK has been informed that all routine offshore helicopter flights into the UK continental shelf (UKCS) from UK airports are still suspended today (Monday, 19 April) due to an airspace restriction. This restriction relates to the presence of volcanic ash in the atmosphere. Following flight tests at the weekend, it was found that ash is present in the atmosphere below 5,000 feet and hence impacts on UKCS helicopter operations.
This has affected many planned crew changes, however the safety of the workforce and the helicopter crews takes priority over any operational or rota requirements. Oil & Gas UK understands that some crew changes took place at the weekend during a weather window, with a total of 16 helicopter flights able to leave from Aberdeen and six from Scatsta in Shetland. In addition, a number of operators are using boats to perform crew changes, however subject to safety considerations and in line with all appropriate HSE guidance.
Oil & Gas UK has been informed by some of its operator members that they have started scaling back on certain non-essential activities.
Oil & Gas UK understands that search and rescue aircraft and air ambulances in the UK remain operational. Emergency response vessels, which play a vital role in search and rescue operations, are not affected by the situation and are operating as normal.
Oil & Gas UK will continue to monitor the situation and will liaise closely with its members, NATS, the helicopter operators and the regulatory authorities.