UK CAA makes progress in offshore helicopters safety

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has published today a progress report on the recommendations and actions from its comprehensive review of offshore helicopter operations from February 2014.

Between 2009 and 2013 there were five significant accidents in the UK sector, two of which tragically resulted in fatalities. In August 2013, four passengers were killed when a CHC Helicopter Eurocopter AS332 crashed into the North Sea on approach to Sumburgh Airport. In the light of this, the CAA Board commissioned a comprehensive review of the safety of offshore helicopter operations.

In February 2014, the CAA published a Safety Review of offshore helicopter operations. The Review examined the risks to helicopter operations to support the oil and gas industries in and around the North Sea. It identified a wide range of opportunities to improve the safety of those operations and in particular to increase the chances of passengers and crew surviving an accident.

According to CAA, substantial progress has been made so far on measures to improve offshore helicopter safety but there is still more to do.

Safety improvements introduced since the CAA review was launched have included:

– Stopping flights over the most extreme sea conditions.

– Ensuring every passenger on an offshore helicopter flight is equipped with new improved Emergency Breathing System (EBS) ahead of schedule.

– Standardization of pilot training, particularly for the use of complex automated systems on helicopters and the associated operating procedures.

– Establishing a new top level group to drive change, the Offshore Helicopter Safety Action Group (OHSAG) that includes unions, industry and the CAA.

Progress made, but still a lot to do

The CAA says that the OHSAG will continue to drive change and work closely with other parties such as helicopter manufacturers and international regulators, especially the European Aviation Safety Agency, to move forward on safety recommendations.

The majority of the recommendations and actions are aimed at preventing an accident from occurring, the CAA notes. Some of these, such as helicopter design, are longer term projects but the CAA and OHSAG will be maintaining pressure on the organisations responsible for change to ensure the safety improvements are delivered as soon as possible, the CAA said in the press release.

CAA Director of Safety and Airspace Mark Swan said: “The safety of those who rely on offshore helicopter flights is our absolute priority. Some encouraging progress has been made over the last year to improve helicopter safety but there is still more that can and will be achieved. We will continue to report regularly on progress, so that people can have confidence that these important changes are being implemented as quickly as possible.”

Click here to download the full report.

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