The North Sea is an unforgiving environment. Helicopters flying there are operating in some of the most challenging conditions possible.

However, that does not excuse the industry’s recent disappointing safety record.

Nonetheless, among rotorcraft operators there is a realisation that things cannot continue as they were.

Last year, the three biggest firms working in the North Sea launched a joint review of safety in the ­sector. It could be argued that this was driven by the industry’s desire to put its own house in order before regulators did it for them.

But no matter the reason, the review – and the co-operative culture at its heart – looks to be paying ­dividends. So much so that it has been significantly expanded in scope to deliver offshore best practice globally.

The new, not-for-profit organisation, Heli Offshore, promises much. Its initial members account for an estimated 80% of the world’s offshore helicopter fleet, and so are in a formidable position to drive real change.

It has a highly capable chief executive in Gretchen Haskins, and an ambitious target to match or better the safety record of commercial aviation.

But its success will be judged by the wider world using the starkest of metrics – the number of accidents involving its members’ aircraft. And no organisation can ever guarantee that helicopters will not crash.

Source: Flight International