The three main North Sea helicopter operators are teaming up to review operational safety in the aftermath of a recent fatal Super Puma accident.
Avinicis, the parent of Bond Offshore Helicopters; Bristow Group and CHC Helicopters will jointly review their safety practices in a bid to enhance safety processes, procedures and equipment.
The move comes after a CHC-operatedAS332L2 Super Puma crashed on approach to Sumburgh Airport in the Shetland Islands on Aug. 23, killing four oil workers onboard. The other 12 passengers and two crewmembers were rescued. It was the fifth accident involving U.K.-based helicopters in the North Sea in four years.
Announcing the initiative during the Helitech exhibition in London on Sept. 25, the companies said the review would “deepen their commitment to share best practices. The three companies leading this effort will reach out to other helicopter operators to encourage them to join the review group.”
The operators say the review will focus first on operational procedures in Europe, and will also examine global operations. As part of the review, the companies will explore training, human factors, and automation, as well as response and training for emergency situations.
The review, under the auspices of the European Helicopter Operators Committee (EHOC), will be independent of the review announced by the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority on Sept. 24, which will be carried out in conjunction with the regulator in Norway. The CAA will compare the U.K.’s operations with those in Norway, where statistics show there have been around half the number of fatal and non-fatal accidents involving Norwegian operators compared to U.K. operators.
The operator review will also have the cooperation of the International Oil & Gas Producers Association (OGP), incorporating findings from investigations by the UK Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) and other agencies.
The review is now the fourth of its kind to be announced following the Super Puma accident.
The Helicopter Safety Steering Group (HSSG), an offshore safety committee set up following the fatal Bond Offshore Super Puma accident in 2009, requested that the Oil and Gas U.K. trade association for offshore oil and gas companies should also run an independent review of helicopter operations. The HSSG said terms of reference should be “developed in partnership with all stakeholders, including the trade unions.” The U.K. Parliament’s Transport Committee also announced it would hold an inquiry into helicopter safety and examine whether the government needs to take more pro-active approach in regulating the industry.
Operators have now returned the AS332L2 to commercial operations after U.K. air accident investigators said they could so far not find a technical reason for the accident.
“By sharing best practices, we can effectively enhance safety for our clients and our crews,” Bristow Group President and CEO Bill Chiles said. “This initiative will combine the expertise and talents within our industry and will complement and fully support the work being done by HSSG and broader industry forums to identify best-in-class technologies, processes, procedures and training to meet the objectives of achieving better safety performance.”
CHC President and CEO Bill Amelio said, “There are and will continue to be plenty of bases for healthy competition between our companies, but safety must never be one of them.”