HELITECH: Offshore operators launch safety review

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Already the subject of three separate inquiries, the three big offshore helicopter operators have now launched their own safety review.

Avincis Group – which owns Bond Offshore Helicopters in the UK – Bristow Group and CHC Helicopter say the review of safety “will deepen their commitment to share best practices”.

Although it is initially confined to the companies above, they hope that other operators will be persuaded to join them.

The joint safety review “will identify best practices on the ground and in the air, combining the operators’ collective experience”, they say.

The group will first focus on European operations, but this will later be extended to look at best practices from around the globe.

Areas to be examined include automation, training, manufacturing quality and human factors, among others. They will also look at the findings of previous accident reports to aid their work.

The operators hope to carry out the study under the auspices of European Helicopter Operators Committee. No timeframe has been given for the report, however.

Although the announcement of the operator-led probe came barely 24h after the UK Civil Aviation Authority unveiled its own study into helicopter safety – adding to a UK parliamentary review and a similar inquiry from the Helicopter Safety Steering Group – the operators say their collaboration “complements” the other initiatives.

CHC president and chief executive Bill Amelio says: “There are and will continue to be plenty of bases for healthy competition between our companies, but safety must never be one of them.”

All four inquiries have been sparked by a spate of recent accidents in the North Sea, the most recent being the August crash of a CHC Scotia-operated Eurocopter AS332L2 off Shetland that led to the loss of four lives.

Eurocopter executive vice-president global business and services Dominique Maudet, speaking at Helitech before the announcement of the UK CAA and operator inquiry, says the airframer is supportive of any safety initiative. However, he appeared wary that Eurocopter would be singled out.

“Our view is that they should contribute to increasing the safety off all kinds [of helicopters] in the fleet, not just Eurocopters, but any OEM helicopter.

“My hope is that it increases the safety of the workers who leave their family in the morning to go to the rigs.”