Kieran Daly/LONDON

NORWAY HAS PUT BACK its intended date for mandating positive air-traffic control (ATC) of North Sea helicopter operations, but still intends to go ahead with the plan.

The Norwegian civil aviation authority has previously said that the system would be introduced in 1995, but it is now insisting, that the necessary airborne equipment will be fitted, only by the end of 1997.

Its move stems from growing concern about air-misses between helicopters serving offshore rigs.

Operators are being instructed that, to fly in the Norwegian sector, they must fit the modified-automatic dependent surveillance

(M-ADS) system developed by Norsk Forsvarsteknologi of Norway, including airborne satellite-communications (satcoms) from the UK's Racal Avionics. Non-equipped helicopters will have to follow slower procedcural routes.

The M-ADS system involves the transmission via satellite of a global-positioning system position-report from the helicopter, together with the time, ground speed, track, altitude and next-leg details. As with ADS for fixed-wing traffic, the position is displayed to the controller on a pseudo-radar workstation.

Helikopter Service, however, is also examining the possibility of using the resulting satcoms capability of its aircraft to transmit maintenance information from their health and usage monitoring systems back to base - possibly even from its fleet in Vietnam.

Racal marketing manager Robbie Stewart says that the company will deliver the first system in October 1995, for installation early in 1996. Norwegian Helikopter Service intends to fit the satcom equipment in its 40 helicopters, but the plans of other operators in the region, primarily the big three UK offshore operators, are unclear. The UK Civil Aviation Authority is reserving judgement on the system.

Source: Flight International