This first appeared as a Comment in the 25 February issue of Flight International
In its review of offshore oil support helicopter safety, the UK Civil Aviation Authority has admitted it could learn from the Norwegians who, since 1999, have seen better results in their sector of the North Sea. Since 2000 Norway has had a single industry-regulator safety review committee, in contrast to the UK’s multiple bodies. Now, the CAA wants to adopt this single-forum model and share the experience with Norway.
The CAA has always taken safety in the North Sea seriously, but it is clearly taken aback by the recent clutch of accidents, and has concluded there is still much more they and the industry could do.
The agency particularly wants to see action around two objectives: preventing accidents and improving survivability when an aircraft ditches. For prevention it wants improved pilot instrument flying training, GPS-based precision guidance systems to aid foul weather approaches to rig helidecks, and better helideck design and lighting. For survivability, it is ordering operators not to use the centre-cabin row of seats until it equips the helicopter with improved flotation devices or the passengers with better escape breathing equipment. Since there is no off-the-shelf answer to either of these at present, operators will lose 15% of the seating capacity in a full helicopter cabin.
This is a bitter pill for the industry to swallow, but it promised to do what it takes – so let’s see it happen.