HELITECH: CAA probes North Sea helicopter safety

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North Sea helicopter operations are now facing three separate safety reviews, following an announcement by the UK Civil Aviation Authority that it is to conduct a probe into the sector, to report in 2014.

To be carried out in conjunction with its counterparts in the Norwegian CAA and EASA, the latest study will add to those already planned by the Helicopter Safety Steering Group (HSSG) and the UK’s parliamentary transport select committee.

All three come on the back of a late August accident off Sumburgh in Shetland Isles, in which four people died when a Eurocopter AS332L2 crashed into the sea.

The CAA says it will study “current operations, previous incidents and accidents and offshore helicopter flying in other countries”, with the aim of improving safety.

“Although there has been considerable effort by regulators, operators and the offshore industry to minimise the risk of North Sea helicopter operations, there have been five accidents in the past four years, two of which tragically resulted in fatalities,” it says.

The review will be led by the CAA’s head of flight operations, Capt Bob Jones, who will work closely with Geir Hamre, head of helicopter safety for the Norwegian CAA.

The final review will also be subject to scrutiny by independent specialists.

Areas for review include operator decision making and internal management, protection of pilots and crew, pilot training and helicopter airworthiness.

It will include a comparison study of UK operations with those in Norway.

Mark Swan, director of the CAA’s safety and airspace regulation group, says: “The recent accidents have understandably given rise to concerns, particularly with offshore workers who rely so heavily on these helicopter flights.

“We are absolutely committed to ensuring that operations are as safe as possible. The review we are announcing today will thoroughly examine the risks and hazards of operating in the North Sea, and how these can be managed most effectively.”