Oil & Gas UK Welcomes Helicopter Safety Report

Industry body Oil & Gas UK has welcomed recommendations made by the UK's Civil Aviation Authority as part of the organization's safety review of offshore public transport helicopter operations in support of oil and gas recovery.

The CAA announced Thursday a series of measures designed to increase the safety of offshore helicopter flights. The changes are the result of what the organization described as "a comprehensive review of offshore helicopter operations" undertaken in conjunction with the Norwegian CAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The review followed a series of helicopter ditchings in the UK North Sea in recent years, including last August's fatal incident involving a Super Puma in which four offshore workers died.

The CAA's measures include:

  • Prohibiting helicopter flights in the most severe sea conditions, so that the chance of a ditched helicopter capsizing is reduced and a rescue can be safely undertaken
  • Pending further safety improvements to helicopters, passengers will only be able to fly if they are seated next to an emergency window exit to make it easier to get out of a helicopter in an emergency (unless helicopters are fitted with extra flotation devices or passengers are provided with better emergency breathing systems)
  • Requiring all passengers to have better emergency breathing equipment to increase underwater survival time unless the helicopter is equipped with side floats

Meanwhile, there will be changes to the way pilots are trained and checked, while the CAA will take on the role of approving each offshore helideck to ensure strict safety standards are met.

There are also a number of recommendations to EASA, as the regulator for helicopter certification and airworthiness. These include enhancing the safety of helicopters; establishing a review of offshore helicopter accidents and incidents with national aviation organizations, such as the CAA, to highlight safety issues and develop remedies; and, the development of standardized helicopter operating information for pilots.

In the meantime, the CAA expects helicopter operators to make improvements to helicopters and survival equipment, including:

  • Fitting side floats
  • Implementing automatic flotation equipment
  • Adding hand holds next to push out windows
  • Improvements to life rafts and lifejackets

CAA Chair Dame Deirdre Hutton commented in a statement:


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