Global safety body HeliOffshore insists it is making progress towards its goal of making helicopter operations less dangerous, despite its annual general meeting having been overshadowed by the recent fatal crash in Norway.

Gretchen Haskins, chief executive of the organisation, says it has made “very big progress” in a number of areas but the industry needs to do more “until no lives are lost”.

HeliOffshore’s mission statement – agreed at its AGM in Prague in May – states: “Flying on duty offshore should be at least as safe as flying on the average global commercial airline.”

However in the latest offshore accident, 13 passengers and crew were killed in the crash on Norway’s west coast. Investigators say the main rotor separated with little or no warning from an Airbus Helicopters H225 en route to Bergen from an oil platform.

Although Haskins stresses “in retrospect, every accident is preventable” she admits “if it was easy, it would have been done already”.

The key, she says, is to build “system resilience” and “increased survivability” in case of an equipment malfunction. The entire industry – from OEMs, to operators, to oil and gas customers – must also work proactively to increase safety, she says.

Haskins believes the crisis afflicting the oil and gas sector on the back of the plunging price of crude, though, is not having an adverse effect on safety.

“It is an incredibly difficult time for everyone,” she says. “But there is huge dedication that safety will not be compromised.”

The financial impacts of the crisis have already forced CHC Helicopter – the operator involved in the Turøy crash – into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, but Haskins says the Canada-based firm’s chief executive, Karl Fessenden, remains “incredibly supportive of everything we are doing”.

“He has offered up resource and support for our work in a big way,” she says.

One agreement to emerge from the AGM is an industry-wide commitment to install terrain warning systems on all offshore helicopters by the end of 2017, which Haskins describes as a “very aggressive timetable”.

This requires input from operators, regulators, aircraft and system manufacturers and oil and gas customers.

Source: Flight Daily News