24 September 2013, News Wires – The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority announced Tuesday that it will carry out a review of offshore helicopter operations in the North Sea in the wake the recent fatal crash of a Super Puma helicopter off the Shetland Islands.
The CAA said the review will be carried out jointly with the Norwegian CAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), and will be advised by a panel of independent experts. It will study current operations, previous incidents and accidents as well as offshore helicopter flying in other countries to make recommendations aimed at improving the safety of offshore flying.
The CAA noted that “although there has been considerable effort by regulators, operators and the offshore industry to minimize the risk of North Sea helicopter operations there have been five accidents in the past four years, two of which tragically resulted in fatalities”.
The latest accident occurred in late August, when four offshore oil and gas workers were killed after an AS332-L2 Super Puma crashed on approach to Sumburgh in the Shetland Islands. Since then, many offshore workers have voiced concerns about flying in Super Pumas, even though the UK’s Helicopter Safety Steering Group passed all Super Pumas as fit to fly in the weeks after the incident. Oil and gas major Total took the unusual step of chartering boats to take some of its workers to its installations in the North Sea.
The CAA said its review will pay particular attention to:
• Operators’ decision making and internal management.
• The protection of passengers and crew.
• Pilot training and performance.
• Helicopter airworthiness.
Mark Swan, director of the CAA’s Safety and Airspace Regulation Group, commented in a statement: “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.
“We are extremely grateful to Geir Hamre from the Norwegian CAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency for joining the review team. They bring additional expertise and experience which will be invaluable to the review.”
In a separate statement, Oil & Gas UK welcomed the CAA review. Robert Paterson, the industry body’s health, safety and employment issues director, said: “Oil & Gas UK welcomes the CAA’s review of offshore helicopter operations in the North Sea and we and our members stand ready to engage fully in the process.
“As the CAA highlights in its announcement, considerable efforts have already been made by regulators, operators and the offshore industry to minimize the risk of operations so the industry is keen to contribute to a review of the current situation to ensure that the flights taken by its workforce are as safe as possible.
“In addition, we will consider the CAA’s terms of reference with a view to identifying and addressing helicopter operational issues not covered by the CAA safety review.”