No announcement yet.

North Sea News

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • North Sea News

    Safety Review Call for North Sea Helicopter Flights

    THE Air Accident Instigation Branch (AAIB) has ordered offshore helicopter companies to carry out an urgent review of pre-flight safety briefings on emergency breathing systems in the wake of the Super Puma helicopter disaster off Shetland in which four oil workers were killed.

    Air crash investigators have issued a special bulletin on the tragedy to highlight safety concerns relating to the briefings which are given to oil workers about the way the potentially life saving equipment works.

    The emergency breathing system are provided to passenger on the majority of offshore flights. But there are three separate system in use.

    Three of the four victims drowned in the disaster.

    According to the report research has shown that in some 60 per cent of all helicopter ditchings and crashes the helicopter has inverted or sunk either immediately or after short delay.

    It continues: “A capsize often occurred before evacuation of the occupants could be completed. Emergency breathing systems (EBS) were developed to allow helicopter occupants to breathe underwater for a short period of time.

    “The EBS can bridge the gap between the maximum breath-hold time of an occupant and the time required to complete an underwater escape, thereby increasing the chances of survival. EBS were introduced in UK North Sea offshore helicopter operations as a voluntary industry standard - at present there is no regulatory requirement for such equipment.”

    Three different types of systems are currently in use - a compressed air system with a mouthpiece, a rebreather system, and a hybrid system consisting of a rebreather system with a cylinder of compressed air.

    The report continues: “The pre-flight safety briefing material has been reviewed by the AAIB as part of its ongoing investigation. This has identified that the briefing material does not include fully representative information about the EBS.

    “It does not highlight that the EBS provided may be a hybrid rebreather containing an air supply which is discharged automatically into the rebreather bag, or that the system can be used even if the wearer has not taken a breath before becoming submerged.”

    The report wars: “Incomplete information in the pre flight safety briefing material may give passengers the false impression that hybrid rebreathers,such as the widely used LAP system, are only of benefit if the user has taken breath prior to becoming submerged.

    “Knowledge that hybrid rebreathers contain their own supply of air may therefore influence a passenger’s decision on whether or not to use the EBS in an emergency situation.”

    It continues: “The AAIB has approached the main helicopter o[operators flying in support of the UK oil and gas industry, whose passengers are equipped with a hybrid EBS.

    “Whilst operation of the hybrid EBS should be covered in initial and recurrent training, it is not explicitly described in the pre-flight safety briefing.

    “The operators have undertaken to amend their pre-flight briefing material to include information that the hybrid system contains its own air supply which is discharged automatically, making the system usable even if the wearer has not taken a breath before becoming submerged.”

    The four oil workers were killed when the CHC-operated Super Puma AS332L2 helicopter crashed on its approach to Shetland’s Sumburgh airport on 23 August last year. Those who died were Sarah Darnley, 45, from Elgin, Gary McCrossan, 59, from Inverness, Duncan Munro, 46, from Bishop Auckland, and George Allison, 57, from Winchester.

    The LAP (Lifejacket Airpocket Plus) system is a hybrid system comprising a combined lifejacket and hybrid rebreather. According to the report, this particular model of EBS has been widely adopted for use by operators of UK North Sea offshore helicopter flights and is “routinely” provided to passengers.

  • #2
    Pilots call for Piper Alpha-style inquiry as MPs begin probe into Shetland helicopter deaths

    A HELICOPTER pilot yesterday backed his professional body in calling for a Piper Alpha-style inquiry before a judge to examine the safety of offshore flights.

    Captain Colin Milne, who gave evidence to MPs meeting in Aberdeen yesterday, has called for a legal hearing along similar lines to Lord Cullen’s probe into the 1988 Piper Alpha tragedy.

    Capt. Colin Milne

    Their call came hours before Captain Colin Milne gave evidence to MPs meeting in Aberdeen.

    The transport committee heard from industry and workers representatives following last summer’s fatal chopper crash off Shetland.

    Milne said a legal hearing along similar lines to Lord Cullen’s probe into the 1988 Piper Alpha tragedy in which 167 men died could explore the “amount of control exercised by the offshore helicopter transport regime”.

    Milne, representing pilots association BALPA, said similar scenarios caused successive tragedies.

    He said pilots wanted to operate to a “high minimum standard” under a regulator ensuring safety was not to be competed on.
    The pilot said: “It shouldn’t take accidents and people dying for that to happen. We should not be learning the same harsh lessons again and again.”

    Unite union regional organiser John Taylor said he believed there were commercial pressures in the industry.

    But Bristow Helicopters director Mike Imlach said: “If I don’t have the full parameters of safety and crews on the aircraft we will not fly irrespective of commercial pressure we may receive from a client.”

    The transport committee review was instigated after a CHC-operated Super Puma crashed in August, killing four offshore workers.
    There have been 3.6million offshore flights in the North Sea in five years – half on controversial Super Pumas.
    Last edited by Aviafora Newsdesk; 28th January 2014, 10:41.


    • #3
      Gales Leave Workers Trapped Offshore

      HUNDREDS of oil workers are being trapped on North Sea platforms due to the strong gales that have been blowing for the past three weeks.

      Bristow Helicopters who ferry workers on and off oil and gas rigs throughout the East Shetland Basin say this has been the worst spell of extended bad weather they have encountered in recent years.

      Base manager at Shetland’s Scatsta airport Colin Jones, which handles fixed wing and helicopter flights exclusively for the offshore industry, said they had a “significant backlog” due to the weather.

      “There is a lot of frustration and we are doing our very best. We take every opportunity to operate when it is safe to do so but unfortunately we have no control over the weather,” he said.

      “It is unprecedented in recent years to have such consistent winds from the south east in the basin.”

      Last summer when fog disrupted offshore flights, oil companies used oilfield supply boats to ferry workers to and from the platforms.

      However with seas as high as 12 metres over the past three weeks, even boats are out of action.

      Friday night and Saturday morning see the winds peaking with gust of Force 10 or 11 in Shetland being forecast.
      Bristow say they will take any opportunity to operate and will be waiting for weather windows over the weekend.

      Environment agency SEPA has issued a flood warning for the whole of Shetland, especially for areas exposed to the sea from the south east at peak tides at 11.30pm on Friday and 11.45am on Saturday.

      Ferry operators Serco NorthLink have cancelled both north and southbound sailings of their ferries between Lerwick and Aberdeen on Friday night.

      The company hopes the ferry Hjaltland will be able to sail south from Lerwick on Saturday and go on to dry dock for two weeks, during which only the Hrossey will serve the isles.

      Both of the company’s freight boats Hildasay and Helliar have cancelled their Friday night sailings.

      Sumburgh airport operated more or less on schedule throughout Friday, however the evening flights to and from Aberdeen have been cancelled.

      Inter island operators Direct Flight cancelled flights to and from Fair Isle and Foula on Friday, but hope the weather eases enough on Saturday lunchtime to make it to Foula if there is demand.

      Shetland’s inter island ferry service operated largely as normal throughout Friday, but was preparing itself for disruption on Friday night as the winds started to build up.

      The Whalsay, Yell and Bluemull Sound services were suspended just before 7pm.


      • #4
        Oil Industry Helping Accuracy of Weather Forecasts

        WEATHER data reports obtained from over 104 oil and gas platforms and installations across the North Sea are now being used to improve forecasts by the Met Office, as well as improving the safety of offshore helicopter flights, it was revealed today.

        Oil and gas platforms and installations are helping the Met Office improve the accuracy of weather forecasts

        Helimet was originally established by Britain’s oil and gas industry as an internet-based weather data network, designed to share data between UK offshore installations and helicopter operators.

        But Oil & Gas UK has announced that the system is now being used to enable forecasters to predict and analyse weather patterns more accurately than ever before.

        Robert Paterson, the health and safety director of Oil & Gas UK, said: “Helimet is an internet-based weather data network originally designed to share data between UK offshore installations and helicopter operators. This collaboration is a great example of how cutting edge data technology, driven by the oil and gas industry can be of great value to other areas.”

        He explained: “Helimet uses a network of automated weather stations located on offshore oil and gas platforms and mobile installations. They provide detailed reports of cloud, visibility and weather and in some instances, information of wave conditions. These data are fed into a network allowing more accurate definition of the weather across the North Sea, an area prone to adverse weather conditions.”

        Mr Paterson added: “The safety of the offshore workforce is the absolute priority for the offshore oil and gas industry. Up to date and accurate weather forecasting allows the managers of installations in the North Sea to operate in a safe environment and the helicopter pilots to fly as safely as possible.“

        John Mitchell, the Met Office’s metocean advisor, said data from Helimet was making a significant contribution to the Met Office’s ability to accurately monitor and provide weather advice.

        Said Mr Mitchell: “Accurate guidance is critical to the safe and efficient operation of not only the oil and gas industry but also the wider offshore renewables, shipping and aviation activity.

        In addition, coastal communities will benefit through the more accurate analysis of wave activity and potentially damaging surge events as recently experienced along the east coast of England.”


        • #5
          Warnings of North Sea Helicopter Pilot Shortage

          NORTH Sea helicopter operators are struggling to attract experienced pilots to operate crucial offshore flights.

          The once steady stream of trained crew, drawn from former military personnel, has “all but dried up”, forcing operators to look for people willing to pay £100,000-plus to fund their own pilot training.

          Flying helicopters in the North Sea remains an “aspiration career”, according to Captain Colin Milne, chairman of the helicopter affairs committee of the British Airline Pilots’ Association, but unless fresh recruits can be found the industry will face a shortage of skilled pilots.

          North Sea helicopter pilots needed

          “The Central and Northern North Sea, operating out of Aberdeen and Shetland, is the helicopter equivalent of long-haul Boeing 747 flights for fixed-wing pilots. It is highly demanding and we need people of the top calibre,” he told Scotland on Sunday. “But I’d say we have mopped up everybody at all suitable for that very top layer of the industry. Where are the next lot of pilots going to come from?”

          Significant new investment in the North Sea is expected to increase the pressure on operators to have a healthy supply of qualified pilots. Milne said the industry should be braced for a “huge ramp-up” of demand for their services.

          The pilot shortage has arisen because fewer armed forces-trained pilots are available. “The traditional sources of supplies – the armed forces – have pretty well dried up, although clearly when the civilianisation of Search and Rescue starts in two years’ time, there will be guaranteed places for quite a large proportion of military SAR pilots,” said Milne.

          Up to 80 per cent of applicants for a pilot’s post in the UK oil and gas sector fail to make the grade, an industry source said. Recent helicopter crashes, including the Clutha tragedy in which a police helicopter crashed into a Glasgow pub and the Super Puma disaster in which four oil workers lost their lives, highlight the dangers involved.

          For those who can afford it, pilot training is available at an initial cost of £100,000 but loans are difficult to come by. “The only way this is going to be financed in the future is the bank of mum and dad. Flying becomes a career reserved to only the few men and women who can afford to fund the training,” warned Milne.

          Three operators employ most of the pilots in the North Sea: Bristow, CHC and Bond Offshore Helicopters. Bristow sponsors four through training each year and runs an academy in Titusville, Florida. A spokeswoman said: “Academy recruits make up some 30 per cent of the Aberdeen intake.”

          A CHC spokesman said: “The market is competitive and may become more so. We are employing new ways to bring highly trained people in, including a unique partnership with Wings for Warriors.”

          The charity assists former soldiers and marines injured in Iraq and Afghanistan to get civilian jobs. The spokesman added: “We have already employed one pilot and hope to employ more Wings for Warriors candidates.”

          A Bond spokesman said: “We continue to employ pilots from military and civilian backgrounds. In 2013 we recruited an additional 35.”


          • #6
            This has been coming for some years - the average age of the industry has got to be in the region of 57 or so, so I reckon over the next 2-3 years the whole industry will change over.



            • #7
              In the late 70's whenever I landed at Redders (Redhill) there would be a small fleet of 47's which were used to deliver ab-initio training to Bristow students who would (normally) go on to occupy the left seat of an S-61. Do you suppose every last one of them were bonded for 'x' number of years until they 'paid-off' this cost?

              What is the current attitude of North Sea operators towards providing ab-initio training? I ask because (from what I can see) this is the only certain way of replenishing the talent pool.


              • #8
                But they won't listen - there has been a shortage for the last 30 years, only it has been masked by recessions, etc. I guess Bristows school is their attempt of maintaining a good supply.


                • #9
                  You'll forgive my ignorance but I'd rather ask and discover the facts (if possible).

                  Was it the case (do you know) in the 70's that those who were given ab-initio training by Bristows were bonded for a number of years but (crucially) without any salary deductions? In other words they were bonded for 'x' number of years service which, in Bristow's perspective, warranted their investment. So, in return for being taught to fly you were committed to a seven or ten year contract (or whatever it was).

                  But .. that now .. those 'sponsored' by the company have the training bill deducted from their salary until they pay it off ??


                  • #10
                    New Safety Measures to be applied to UK Offshore Helicopter Operations

                    The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) today announced a series of measures to increase the safety of offshore helicopter flights. The changes are the result of a comprehensive review of offshore helicopter operations undertaken in conjunction with the Norwegian CAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and advised by a panel of independent experts.

                    The 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

                    There will be important changes to the way pilots are trained and checked. And the CAA will take on the role of approving each offshore helideck, ensuring they meet strict safety standards.

                    There are 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 organisations, such as the CAA, to highlight safety issues and develop remedies; and, the development of standardised helicopter operating information for pilots.

                    In the meantime, the CAA is expecting 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

                    And the Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organisation (OPITO) is expected to improve survival training for offshore workers.

                    CAA Chair Dame Deirdre Hutton said: “The safety of those who rely on offshore helicopter flights is our absolute priority. The steps we are announcing today will result in significant improvements in safety for those flying to and from offshore sites in the UK and potentially worldwide.

                    “We expect helicopter operators, the oil and gas industry and EASA to move forward with recommendations to them as soon as possible. For our part, the CAA is already taking forward actions directly under our control. We will monitor and report regularly on progress, so that people can have confidence that these important changes are being implemented as quickly as possible.”

                    In gathering evidence for the review the team engaged with trade unions representing industry workers and pilots, the oil and gas industry, helicopter operators, manufacturers, government, regulatory bodies and other experts in the field, as well as analyzing available data and reports.

                    Whilst each organisation will be accountable for implementing the recommendations under their control the CAA will establish and chair a new safety forum that will actively promote delivery of the recommendations and publicly report on progress.


                    • #11
                      AW189s on the North Sea

                      I'm hearing that Bristow's first two AW189s will be delivered to Norwich, but not until late March or early April.

                      Now that we have EASA certification, what's the delay for?


                      • #12
                        North Sea Oil Worker Dies after Falling from Harding Platform

                        A North Sea oil worker has died after falling from a platform in the early hours of this morning.

                        The 62-year-old fell from Taqa’s Harding Platform into the sea. Police were alerted around 3am.

                        The man was taken to Gilbert Bain Hospital in Shetland by helicopter but police said he later died.

                        Police Scotland said no further details were available and Taqa, which has a base in Westhill, could not be contacted for comment.

                        A full investigation is under way.


                        • #13
                          New Helideck Lighting Required for North Sea Ops from March 2018

                          JT Day Pty Ltd has released a new touchdown and positioning system for helipads designed to significantly improve the safety of helicopter pilots and passengers.

                          The new Orga 'Circle-H' system

                          Designed by Orga, a specialist manufacturer of aviation lighting and developed in collaboration with the UK Civil Aviation Authority (UK CAA), the new Circle-H system creates the ‘H’ via a miniature LED lighting system.

                          This system is expected to become mandatory for replacing the painted ‘H’ on oil and gas infrastructure landing decks.

                          According to a report published recently by the UK CAA, the CAP 1077 system has been tested extensively at various test sites, the results of which have led to the UK CAA making the new touchdown and positioning system mandatory in British territorial waters from 2018.

                          The Orga helideck lighting system was developed in collaboration with the UK's Civil Aviation Authority

                          Jan Piet Stock, General Business Manager at Orga explains that the CAA has been seeking solutions for years for improving the safety of helidecks, given that the current markings of the circle and H lit by floodlights have not been effective in all weather conditions. The UK CAA worked with Orga on a safer and more visible solution to improve safety and minimise the number of offshore accidents.

                          The new touchdown and positioning system consists of an LED-lit Circle-H, with the touchdown lighting system (H) featuring specially developed LED modules built up of seven separate components to together form the full H. The components are semi-flexible and made of low-profile stainless steel plates with a special anti-slip coating. The housing of the LEDs is made of offshore resistant and fully sealed marine plastic of high quality.

                          The touchdown and positioning system is suitable for use in explosive atmospheres of zones 1 and 2 and is fully certified to comply with CAA-UK CAP 437; Offshore helicopter landing areas - Guidance on standards, February 2013, chapter 4 and appendix C; IECEx DEK 11.0072; Ex e mb [ib] IIC T6 Gb; IEC 60079-0, IEC 60079-7, IEC 60079-11 and IEC 60079-18.


                          • #14
                            Precautionary Landing: Aberdeen

                            A Bond Helicopters Sikorsky S-92 has made a precautionary landing at Aberdeen Airport in response to a technical warning which occurred in flight.

                            The aircraft was flying to the ENSCO 100 jack-up rig in the North Sea when the warning light illuminated prompting the pilot to return to Aberdeen at around 12.55pm on Thursday.

                            It is understood the technical warning was related to the condition of one of the aircraft's engines.

                            A spokesperson for Bond said the decision to return was "purely precautionary".

                            The incident came on the day a fatal accident inquiry published its findings into a 2009 Bond helicopter crash that killed 16 people.


                            • #15
                              Precautionary Landing: Aberdeen

                              A CHC Sikorsky S-92 returning to Aberdeen from a North Sea oil platform has encountered a technical alert after an engine warning light illuminated on the aircraft's flight deck earlier today.

                              CHC Scotia, which operates the S92 Sikorsky aircraft, said a warning light came on signalling a problem with one of its two engines.

                              All 16 passengers and two crew landed safely at Aberdeen Airport where the helicopter was inspected by engineers.
                              Last edited by Aviafora Newsdesk; 20th March 2014, 20:22.


                              • #16
                                UK CAA Unveils Raft of Safety Actions for North Sea

                                The UK CAA has unveiled a series of dramatic measures stemming from the review it launched last September to improve the safety of offshore helicopter operations in the North Sea. Its primary goal is to improve the odds of passengers and crew surviving a ditching, but the exhaustive 293-page report also addresses pilot training, helidecks and a host of other safety topics. The requirements could present North Sea operators with significant cost and operational challenges.

                                Effective June 1, operators will be allowed to carry passengers only in seats located next to emergency exit windows. Other seats may be used if “helicopters are fitted with extra flotation devices or passengers are provided with better emergency breathing systems (EBS),” the CAA said. Beginning in 2016, no offshore flight will be allowed unless all occupants wear the improved EBS or the aircraft is equipped to float on its side.

                                The CAA proposes that, in addition to the usual four floats at the bottom of the airframe, helicopters should carry two more floats mounted high on the airframe to allow them to float on their side rather than turn turtle, which too often causes passengers to drown.

                                In the past the side-floating concept has stirred debate in the offshore industry. Trials with human subjects showed it is much easier to escape from a helicopter floating on its side than from one that is floating inverted. However, in 2011 Airbus Helicopters (then Eurocopter) expressed concern about inadvertent deployment of a float mounted near the main rotor. What’s more, floats mounted near hot turbine exhaust would have to be made of heat-resistant material, creating a weight penalty of perhaps 200 pounds.

                                A UK CAA spokesman told AIN, “This is less of an issue now. Thanks to the technologies manufacturers have developed, installing upper floats is feasible.” He noted that no helicopter, in the North Sea or likely anywhere else, has yet been fitted with such upper floats. He said that developing them and retrofitting the current fleet would probably take three to five years.

                                To comply with UK rules as of June 1, the quickest solution is for operators to use improved EBS. Such improved devices must be deployable underwater within the time an individual can typically hold his breath, the report said. The improved EBS are known as Category A, as opposed to the most common Category B. One type of Category A device is already used by commercial offshore operators in Canada.

                                The report emphasized that the [Category B] EBS currently deployed are unlikely to be adequate in the event of a water impact requiring deployment at very short notice or underwater. A Category A EBS is more like a scuba system and provides passengers with immediate oxygen, the CAA spokesman said. Current Category B re-breather systems require some preparation before use.

                                A key issue will be to find suppliers for large quantities of this equipment. Given the seat capacity of the North Sea helicopter fleet, AIN estimates the number of EBS required could be between 1,500 and 2,000. An EBS expert at Aqualung, one supplier of category A devices, told AIN delivering such a large number by June is “doable but really tight.” A spokeswoman for another supplier, Survitec, declined to provide delivery lead time. She suggested that passengers might be trained to use Category B EBS more swiftly but training them would take time, too. The CAA itself believes implementing the measure could take one to two years.

                                In any case, operators have to face the prospect of mandatory empty seats. According to the helicopter safety steering group (a committee part of the Step Change in Safety organization in the UK oil-and-gas industry), the seating capacity of the North Sea helicopter fleet will be reduced by about 40 percent. “This might mean that there will need to be more flights offshore to accommodate the reduced seating capacity,” the group said. The CAA sees less impact and estimates the rule will reduce North Sea seating capacity by only 10 to 20 percent.

                                Sea State Certification

                                To reduce the threat of capsizing after a ditching, flights in the most severe sea conditions (above sea state 6) will be prohibited beginning June 1. As of September the requirement will be even stricter, as operations will be prohibited when the sea conditions exceed the certified ditching performance of the helicopter. For most modern types, which are certified to sea state 6, the regulation will ground 1.4 percent of operations, the report estimates.

                                The CAA also suggests that the way in which ditching compliance is demonstrated is deficient. For example, a demonstration might use a downscaled model in a water tank, with smooth and regular (albeit relatively high) waves. The UK CAA is thus considering a downgrade of the claimed buoyancy performance of existing helicopters by one sea state. “We want the airframers to give more evidence to prove their claim…or make it more realistic,” the spokesman said.

                                Other practical changes include adding hand holds next to push-out windows and restricting passenger size. The latter measure will be enforced from April 1 next year to ensure body size does not exceed the dimensions of push-out window exits.

                                Life rafts and lifejackets are to be improved, too. The CAA wants to make sure that survivors can launch life rafts regardless of the helicopter’s attitude, and it will mandate that all life jackets be self-righting.

                                The CAA, citing excessive differences in the way different companies operate the same types of helicopter, also wants to see more harmonization in pilot training. The review found an issue with loss of control associated with sophistication and automation.

                                Finally, the CAA intends to assume responsibility for the certification of UK helidecks. It expressed concern that recently introduced helicopters have been permitted to operate on older helidecks that were built for lighter machines. The CAA will review, by the third quarter, whether such operations should continue.

                                There are 228 helideck-equipped fixed installations and up to 100 mobile helidecks on the UK continental shelf. The industry’s core workforce (those spending 100 or more nights per year offshore) numbered 25,760 in 2012. In the same year, more than a million passengers flew on 141,000 sectors in 86,000 flight hours.

                                Asked about the economic impact of the measures, the CAA spokesman cited no figures but said that all actions and recommendations are achievable. Operators and manufacturers provided little reaction. Sikorsky, Airbus Helicopters, Bristow and Bond Offshore said they are studying the review’s actions and recommendations.

                                Does Norway do it better?

                                A recently released UK CAA report compares the UK’s safety performance with that of Norway, its neighbor for North Sea oil-and-gas activity. At 0.34, the UK’s fatal accident rate per 100,000 hours appears to be three times that of Norway. The calculation was based on seven accidents in the 20 years between 1992 and 2012. However, statisticians said the rate difference on that small a number of accidents is not significant.

                                The CAA intends to establish an offshore helicopter safety forum this year to drive forward the actions it has identified and liaise with Norway to share experiences and best practices.


                                • #17
                                  Bond Takes Delivery of Second S-92

                                  Bond Offshore Helicopters has taken delivery of its second Sikorsky S-92.

                                  Destined for service in the North Sea oilfields, the rotorcraft was flown from the USA to Prestwick airport, Scotland, aboard a Volga-Dnepr Airlines Antonov An-124.

                                  Bond's second S-92 delivered to Aberdeen via Antonov 124

                                  The aircraft is one of a batch of six S-92s due to start operations with Bond. The helicopters normally arrive by sea, but on this occasion, delivery by air was deemed to be the most efficient method of bringing the helicopter to the UK and getting it into service, says Bond Aviation Group.

                                  At Prestwick, the helicopter was transferred to a transporter truck for the final leg of the journey to Bond’s base at Aberdeen airport, in northeast Scotland: the centre of the UK hydrocarbon industry.

                                  Final assembly and testing was carried out at the Aberdeen site, before the aircraft made its operational debut in the first week of April.

                                  In 2013 Bond Offshore Helicopters carried 160,000 passengers to their offshore workplaces, flying more than 22,000h. The new aircraft is part of a purchase of 16 new S-92 helicopters announced in 2011 by Bond’s parent company, Avincis Group.



                                  • #18
                                    North Sea Air Crew Event: First Officer Becomes Poorly in Flight

                                    The co-pilot of a CHC Super Puma helicopter had to be taken to hospital after falling ill while airborne.

                                    The helicopter landed safely at Sumburgh Airport in Shetland just before noon on Tuesday.

                                    The pilot was taken by ambulance to the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick for a check-up.

                                    A spokeswoman for operators CHC said the co-pilot started feeling unwell shortly before the helicopter was due to land at Sumburgh.

                                    She said: "It was only during the last minutes of the flight that the co-pilot started to feel a little bit ill.

                                    "Since these helicopter are always being flown by two pilots, the aircraft landed as per normal. There were no diversions."


                                    • #19
                                      Precautionary Landing: Sumburgh

                                      A Bristow EC225 has made a precautionary landing at Sumburgh Airport in response to a technical warning which occurred in flight.

                                      The Airbus Super Puma alerted the airport control tower at around 10.50am after a warning light was triggered and thereafter landed safely at around 11am with all 18 passengers and two crew reported as being safe and well.

                                      A Bristow EC225 Super Puma

                                      The airport fire services, ambulance crews and police were all scrambled, while the Sumburgh-based Coastguard rescue helicopter was put on standby.

                                      A Bristow spokesman said: “Bristow Helicopters Ltd can confirm that one of its Airbus EC225 helicopters was diverted to Sumburgh Airport today at approximately 10.50am after a caution light illuminated in the cockpit.

                                      “The aircraft was undertaking a routine crew change flight to an offshore installation and had 18 passengers and two crew on-board at the time.

                                      “The aircraft landed safely at Sumburgh Airport at approximately 11am and is currently undergoing a fault diagnosis to establish the required maintenance actions.

                                      “The landing itself was uneventful but Sumburgh Airport mobilised the emergency services as a matter of routine.”

                                      He added: “Flight safety is Bristow’s first priority and we will always investigate prior to further flight.

                                      A spokesman for Highlands and Islands Airports, who operate Sumburgh Airport, said: “There was an incident involving a Bristow helicopter at Sumburgh Airport this morning.

                                      “The aircraft landed safely and the incident was quickly stood down. In line with standard procedures, HIAL’s airport fire service were on standby but were not required.”

                                      The warning light which illuminated on the aircraft's instrument panel during flight is believed to have been related to the helicopter's main gearbox.


                                      • #20
                                        Inquest to be Held for G-REDL First Officer

                                        An inquest into the death of Richard Menzies, who died when the helicopter he was co-piloting crashed into sea off the Aberdeenshire coast on April 1, 2009, will take place on July 24 2014.

                                        Mr Menzies, who was 24 when he died, a former pupil at Pershore High School and hailed from Droitwich, was among 16 men who died when the Super Puma, operated by Bond Offshore plumeted into the North Sea five years ago.

                                        Richard Menzies, 24, was First Officer on board the stricken helicopter

                                        A fatal accident inquiry (FAI) held before Sheriff Principal Derek Pyle earlier this year found the tragedy might have been avoided if proper maintenance had been carried out.

                                        Despite this the Crown Office said the company would not be prosecuted as failings could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

                                        G-REDL, the AS332L Super Puma which crashed in the North Sea 11 nautical miles northeast of Peterhead just before 2:00 pm on 1 April 2009

                                        An earlier Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) probe found that the aircraft suffered a "catastrophic failure" of its main rotor gearbox.

                                        Speaking after the findings earlier this year, a spokesman for Bond Offshore said the firm accepted it had made mistakes and lessons had been learned.

                                        The inquest is set to take place at the Worcestershire Coroners Court in Stourport at 11am on July 24.


                                        • #21
                                          Precautionary Return to Base: Aberdeen

                                          A Super Puma EC225 carrying 17 passengers to the Talisman’s Clyde platform returned to Aberdeen today after the illumination of a warning light on the helicopter's instrument panel.

                                          The helicopter had been in the air less than 20 minutes when the incident occurred. The Super Puma returned to Aberdeen International Airport at around 10.30am on Thursday 1st May.

                                          Operator Bristow says the aircraft will undergo checks before it is allowed to fly again. A spokeswoman said: "Flight safety is Bristow’s first priority and we will always investigate prior to further flight."


                                          • #22
                                            UK CAA Changes North Sea Safety Measures Timescale

                                            The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has announced changes to two of its requirements aimed at improving offshore helicopter safety. It follows discussions with the oil and gas industry, helicopter operators and representatives of the offshore workforce and pilots.

                                            In February the CAA announced a series of measures to improve the safety of offshore operations. These included the introduction of seating restrictions on offshore flights from 1 June 2014, only allowing passengers to fly if they are seated next to a push-out window exit so they can escape in an emergency. This would be an interim measure until improved emergency breathing equipment is provided.

                                            Since February, the new Offshore Helicopter Safety Action Group, set up by the CAA, has been working to develop the recommendations and oversee their implementation.

                                            The regulator said that new information had led it to delay the implementation of the seating restrictions until 1 September 2014. Reasons for the change include:

                                            • Evidence provided by the oil and gas industry that reducing helicopter capacity through seating restrictions could have an adverse impact on safety critical maintenance work due to take place at offshore installations over the summer.

                                            • Confirmation that the first improved breathing system units – which would remove the need for seating restrictions - won’t be available before mid-July.

                                            • The recent certification of a redesigned gear shaft for the Airbus Helicopters EC225 – enabling it to be fitted on existing helicopters of this type. The CAA said that this is an important safety modification which should be implemented as quickly as possible, but will also require helicopters being temporarily taken out of service, further reducing capacity at this busy time for offshore safety maintenance.

                                            The second change is to significantly bring forward the date from which the improved Emergency Breathing System (EBS) will be compulsory. This will now be 1 January 2015 rather than 1 April 2016. The new system will deliver a significant improvement in safety for those travelling offshore and is expected to gain safety approval this month.

                                            CAA Head of Flight Operations Rob Bishton said: “The safety of those who work offshore is our absolute priority and as such we must also consider their safety on offshore installations as well as onboard flights.

                                            “We have listened carefully to the views of the industry, the unions and the helicopter operators. The changes to timescales we have announced today will mean that helicopter flights will only be permitted after 1 January 2015 if passengers are fitted with the improved emergency breathing equipment – that’s much earlier than originally planned. But we are also giving the industry an extra three months before the temporary seating restrictions are applied, so that they can complete planned, safety-critical maintenance work offshore over the summer.”

                                            The CAA said that it also understood workforce concerns about its plans to prevent helicopter operators carrying passengers whose body size means they couldn’t escape through push-out window exits in an emergency. The change, which is not due to take effect until 1 April 2015, is to ensure that everyone onboard can escape in the event of a helicopter capsizing after a ditching or water impact. The Offshore Helicopter Safety Action Group has said that the introduction of the requirement will be sensibly managed and the Group’s aim is that no one loses their job as a result of the change. Exit sizes vary from one helicopter type to another - and even from one seat row to the next on some helicopters - and there are many options being explored, especially around seat allocation.


                                            • #23
                                              North Sea Workforce Grows

                                              Britain’s North Sea workforce grew by 8.6% last year, despite pressures on the sector from helicopter safety issues and a fall in the price of oil.

                                              A study by industry body Oil & Gas UK found the number of people working on platforms in the North Sea had hit its highest recorded level, with a total of almost 62,000 flying out for at least one night during 2013.

                                              The workforce is getting younger, with a near 15% hike in those aged between 23 and 28, and the average age of offshore workers falling to below 41.

                                              But the study also found massive under-representation of women in the offshore workforce at a time when the sector is crying out for skilled new recruits.

                                              Women now comprise 3.6% of the total “offshore population”, representing a decrease of almost 0.2% since 2012​

                                              The trade body said the rate of increase was stronger than had been anticipated given the effect on transport capacity following a ditching in October 2012 and a suspension of services following a fatal crash off Shetland in August last year.

                                              It also hailed the impact of billions of pounds of investment in new projects during a year in which the average price of a barrel of oil fell $3 to $109.

                                              “Between 2010 and 2013, there was a sharp rise in the number of offshore personnel.

                                              “However, upon analysing the data, there does not appear to be a significant increase in any particular discipline or area of offshore work,” the demographics report said.

                                              “The rise in manpower could be attributed to maintenance programmes, upgrades and key projects taking place in 2013, together with record capital investment of £14.4 billion in the industry.”

                                              Oil & Gas UK employment and skills manager Alix Thom said the statistics helped to dispel the “common misconception” of an ageing workforce.

                                              “However, this good news must be considered against the 8% reduction in production seen in 2013 and the fact that there has been a slight drop in the proportion of female employees relative to the total offshore population,” Dr Thom said.

                                              “Women now comprise 3.6% of the total offshore population, representing a decrease of almost 0.2% since 2012.

                                              “Given the current level of demand for skilled employees, and the high level of activity on the UK Continental Shelf, it is in the industry’s interest to increase its focus on tackling this lack of gender diversity as it represents a significant, but not fully utilised, pool of talent.”

                                              The number of so-called “core” staff — who spend more than 100 nights offshore each year — rose 7.7% to 27,750, accounting for 6% of the UK industry’s workforce.

                                              The core figure represents 45% of the total employment in the sector and saw a 7.7% increase on the same measure in 2012. Of the core, half visited a single offshore site, with 72% working for a single operator.

                                              Just more than four-fifths were British, with the largest proportion of non-British workers coming from Norway.

                                              But the proportion of female workers in the workforce, 30% of whom are in catering, fell marginally on the previous year’s level.


                                              • #24
                                                EC175 to Commence North Sea Demonstration Tour

                                                Airbus Helicopters will begin a week-long demonstration tour of their EC175 bringing the rotorcraft to England, Scotland and Norway, starting Monday 19th May.

                                                It will demonstrate its outstanding Category A performance and its mission capabilities for the oil and gas sector during a three-nation demonstration tour starting this coming Monday.

                                                In conjunction with the new rotorcraft’s tour of the North Sea, Airbus Helicopters will announce an increase to the EC175’s maximum take-off weight, up to 7,800 kg, offering significant additional payload of 300 kg or an additional 40NM radius of action. The extended MTOW provides additional operational flexibility – particularly in highly demanding oil and gas heli-lift operations, and for missions to oil rigs that are located increasingly further off-shore. Certification of the extended maximum take-off weight is planned before the end of 2016, following a flight test campaign next year.

                                                EC175 to tour North Sea operators next week

                                                “Seeing is believing, and this latest EC175 demonstration tour will enable North Sea oil and gas operators, oil companies and industry workers’ unions to experience and appreciate the performance, range and comfort of this new-generation helicopter,” said Dominique Maudet, Airbus Helicopters’ Executive Vice President - Global Business and Service.

                                                The EC175’s demonstration tour brings it to Norwich, England on May 19th; Aberdeen, Scotland during May 20th – 22nd, and Stavanger, Norway, on May 23rd.

                                                Certified in January by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Airbus Helicopters’ EC175 meets the latest airworthiness standards, covering both the rotorcraft and its new Helionix® avionics suite – which provides increased safety through reduced pilot workload, enhanced situational awareness, improved flight envelope protection and system redundancy.

                                                The helicopter was developed to meet evolving oil and gas industry mission needs, offering outstanding performance and unmatched cost efficiency – enabling a full payload to be carried to 90 percent of the North Sea’s offshore installations. The Rig ’N Fly GPS-navigation-assisted software, after certification on EC225e, will be incorporated in the EC175’s avionics suite to make approaches to, and takeoffs from, platform-based helipads safer and simpler.

                                                As a high-capacity medium-sized rotorcraft, the EC175 accommodates 16 passengers in comfort, offering the most cabin volume per person. The in-flight environment is enhanced by very low vibration levels and a smooth ride – even at high speed. Powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada’s latest PT6 engine – the PT6C67E version developed specifically for this helicopter – the EC175 retains a competitive edge with its recommended cruise speed of 150 kts., while the maximum cruise speed exceeds 165 kts.

                                                Airbus Helicopters will begin EC175 deliveries later this year to the first customers, backed by the company’s commitment to provide a mature helicopter with a dedicated task force and tools that include validated support and services deliverables, as well as established training capabilities.

                                                As part of its investment in support and services resources, Airbus Helicopters has installed an EC175 Level D full flight simulator at its Marignane, France headquarters for operation beginning this summer, allowing pilot training to begin prior to the start-up of EC175 deliveries.

                                                Airbus Helicopters operates a facility in Aberdeen, Scotland offering 930 square meters of storage volume for spares, along with local maintenance, repair and overhaul capability. This support capacity reduces turnaround times and increases operational productivity for customers in the North Sea.


                                                • #25
                                                  Feedback from the EC175's North Sea Tour

                                                  Including comments from Bristow Training Captains Steve Armstrong and Simon Tickel and CHC Training Captain Hugh Martin:


                                                  • #26
                                                    Bristow S-92 Overnights on 'Alba' Following Fuel Leak

                                                    A HELICOPTER carrying oil workers was grounded on a North Sea ship overnight when a fuel leak was found.

                                                    The Bristow S-92 landed on Alba Floating Storage Unit (FSU) on May 28 and was prevented from returning to the mainland the same day after the "technical issue" was discovered.

                                                    The aircraft was carrying seven passengers and two crew when it landed at 5pm for a staff switch.

                                                    A Bristow S-92

                                                    A series of measures aimed at improving offshore helicopter safety were announced by the Civil *Aviation Authority in the wake of a fatal Super Puma crash last year.

                                                    A source who works on the FSU, which operates in an oil field 130 miles north-east of Aberdeen, said that when the helicopter came in the fault was noted and an engineer was deployed to fix the problem.

                                                    The Alba Floating Storage Unit

                                                    He said: "It was leaking badly when it was on the ground and there was no thrust, so even more fuel would have come out if it was airborne.

                                                    "If it wasn't noticed when it was landed, that helicopter would have gone down, no question."

                                                    A spokeswoman for oil giant Chevron, which runs the FSU, said: "A helicopter was temporarily retained on the Alba FSU platform as a precautionary measure as a result of a technical issue which has been resolved."

                                                    Bristow Helicopters confirmed one of its S-92 models was shut down on the offshore installation "as a precautionary measure".

                                                    A spokeswoman said: "Following functional tests and in consultations with the Aircraft Manufacturers and Regulatory Authorities, the aircraft was declared serviceable and cleared to complete its scheduled return flight to Aberdeen."


                                                    • #27
                                                      Norway Shuns UK Offshore Helicopter Safety Changes

                                                      Authorities in Norway have criticised some of the changes to the UK's offshore helicopter industry which are being introduced this week.

                                                      The Norwegian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) said it has no plans to duplicate the 32 safety improvements planned for Scottish offshore helicopters.

                                                      The Scandinavian country has not seen a serious helicopter crash since 1998. Over the same period there have been five crashes in UK waters.

                                                      Since a helicopter crash last year off Shetland, in which four people died, UK aviation authorities have been looking to improve safety.

                                                      In response, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) published a report which contained 32 improvements but the NCAA is not planning to replicate any of them.

                                                      Roy Erling Furre, second deputy leader with the Safe Union which represents oil workers, said: "I think people would be more worried about working in the UK sector."

                                                      Geir Hamre, NCAA head of helicopter safety, believes some changes, like restricting seat numbers, might actually compromise safety.

                                                      He said: "That will mean that we need to fly earlier in the morning and later at night, which is something we don't like when we have the kind of weather we have and darkness. "We want as little flying at night as possible." The CAA said it hopes night flying can be avoided altogether because of other changes being introduced.

                                                      One of those modifications includes replacing what is effectively a bag, where the passenger of a ditched helicopter re-breathes their own air, with a pressurised can of oxygen attached to their suits.

                                                      Mr Hamre added: "You never like to have pressurised systems in a helicopter that you don't control. Because it's pressurised, it can cause accidents if it explodes or its not treated the right way."

                                                      'Find common solutions'

                                                      The safety report has not been wholly criticised by the Norwegians though with some claims it represents a move towards the Norwegian model.

                                                      Andreas Saetre, from the Norwegian pilots union (Nalpa), said: "There are some good points in this report and we would definitely look into it in the next meetings and debate it but we need to evaluate them to make sure that they have the desired outcome."

                                                      A "tripartite" forum for discussing safety, involving the companies, unions and the regulator, is being replicated back home.

                                                      It is the backbone of the safety culture in Norway but unions have more powers and the framework for the forums are grounded in the law.

                                                      Prof Ole Andreas Engen, from the University of Stavanger, said: "One of the things that I think works fairly well is the tripartite system where you can negotiate and find common solutions you agree upon. "I think that is a tremendous and powerful instrument in order to improve safety."


                                                      • #28
                                                        Statoil Awards Mariner Field Contract to CHC

                                                        Statoil UK has awarded a helicopter transportation contract for the Mariner Field to CHC Helicopters.

                                                        The contract calls for CHC to operate two Sikorsky S-92 aircraft on behalf of Statoil. The helicopters will fly from Aberdeen and Sumburgh on the Shetland Isles to the Statoil operated Mariner Field, 250 kilometres off the northeastern coast of Scotland.

                                                        The contract has a duration of five years, plus an extension option for up to three years. The service is anticipated to begin in mid-2016.

                                                        "We are pleased to have entered into this contract, meeting our needs for safe and efficient transportation to the Mariner Field, our first operated field development on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS)," said Gunnar Breivik, managing director of Statoil Production UK and head of the company's Aberdeen office.

                                                        "We will have substantial offshore activity as the Mariner project enters the hook-up and commissioning phase in 2016 and production starts in 2017," said Mr. Breivik. "We are also pleased with the flexibility in the contract, including options for servicing our exploration activity and possible expansion on the UKCS."

                                                        CHC Helicopter Regional Director Mark Abbey said the award recognises the safe and reliable service that CHC has provided to Statoil over a number of years, from a number of locations around the world.

                                                        "We're proud to partner with Statoil as they start up operations in the UK sector," said Mr. Abbey. "Our pilots, engineers and support teams will be using their extensive experience of the North Sea environment to help Statoil to go further, do more in the Mariner field, and come home safely".

                                                        Mariner is the largest field development on the UKCS in more than a decade, with a gross investment of more than US$7 billion. The field is located on the East Shetland Platform of the UK North Sea. The development of the Mariner Field will contribute more than 250 million-barrels reserves, with average plateau production of around 55,000 barrels per day. The field will provide a long term cash-flow over a 30-year field life.


                                                        • #29
                                                          North Sea Suicide From CHC Helicopter

                                                          A Swedish man has died after jumping from a CHC helicopter into the North Sea while being taken to hospital in Norway, Norwegian police said on Thursday.

                                                          The 37-year-old man jumped while the helicopter was more than 600m above the water on Wednesday morning. It is believed that he committed suicide according to sources close to the investigation.

                                                          "During the flight the man climbed out of the helicopter's emergency exit," said Thomas Soerensen at the Sotra, Askoey and Oeygarden police station. "He fell into the sea, 600m below and we believe he died on immediately."

                                                          The man was working on Statoil's 'Troll A' platform located 65km off the west coast of Norway when he complained of being ill and was being taken to a hospital in the western city of Bergen.

                                                          Police said they were investigating the circumstances surrounding the death.

                                                          Sources close to the investigation told AFP that the deceased had been suffering from psychological problems.

                                                          Press Contact Svein Thompson in CHC Helikopter Service says that the incident came as a shock. "This is a type of tragedy we've never experienced before. We now think of the man's family" said Thompson.




                                                          • #30
                                                            Airbus Accepts Liability for 2012 CHC Ditching

                                                            The CHC-operated Super Puma EC225 was forced to land in the North Sea between Shetland and Orkney off Fair Isle.

                                                            Lawyers working for Irwin Mitchell have said manufacturer Airbus, formerly Eurocopter, accepts that it is “solely responsible for failures” leading to the crash.

                                                            An Irwin Mitchell spokesman said: “Lawyers at the firm have now received written confirmation from Airbus Helicopters stating that it accepts that it is solely responsible for the failures which led to the crew ditching the aircraft causing both physical and psychological injuries to those on board.”

                                                            The Super Puma was forced to ditch due to a failure in the gearbox lubrication system and a false warning in the emergency lubrication system.

                                                            The ditching of the Airbus helicopter was said to have been traumatic for those involved

                                                            The helicopter was flying from Aberdeen to the West Phoenix platform, west of Shetland when it ditched. Two crew were also on board the helicopter.

                                                            Jonathan Garcia, an ROV Pilot Technician on board when the helicopter ditched, said: "It has been a long wait for answers regarding the incident but, if any good is to come of it, it will be that steps are taken to improve offshore helicopter safety in the long term.

                                                            "Barely a day goes by when I do not think of the ditching. It was incredibly traumatic. Thankfully now that Airbus Helicopters has accepted responsibility, we should be able to start moving forward and receive the help and support we need to be able to move on with our lives.

                                                            “I hope that the aviation authorities and helicopter operators take the necessary steps to prevent anyone else going through what I have had to experience."

                                                            Jim Morris, a former RAF pilot and partner in Irwin Mitchell's Aviation Law team, added: “There have been a number of adverse incidents involving Super Puma helicopters in recent years. We now hope that the issues identified in the recent accident report are fully addressed as soon as possible to prevent any similar incidents in future.”