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North Sea helicopter ops reviewed

Offshore helicopter operations in the North Sea are to be reviewed, the UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has announced.

The review follows five accidents in the last four years, the last of which in August this year claimed four lives.

The CAA said the review will be undertaken jointly with the Norwegian CAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and advised by a panel of independent experts. It will study current operations, previous incidents and accidents and offshore helicopter flying in other countries to make recommendations aimed at improving the safety of offshore flying.

The CAA said: "Although there has been considerable effort by regulators, operators and the offshore industry to minimise the risk of North Sea helicopter operations there have been five accidents in the past four years, two of which tragically resulted in fatalities."

It added that the review would be led by the CAA's flight operations head, Captain Bob Jones, who will work closely with Geir Hamre, head of helicopter safety for the Norwegian CAA. They will be supported by a team of experts who will consult with a wide range of individuals and organisations involved in offshore flying. The final review will also be subject to scrutiny by independent specialists.

The review will pay particular attention to: Operators' decision making and internal management; the protection of passengers and crew; pilot training and performance; and helicopter airworthiness. It will include a comparison study of UK operations with those in Norway. The findings of the review are due to be published in early 2014.

Mark Swan, director of the CAA's safety and airspace regulation group, said: "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."

Last month's North Sea accident involved a CHC-operated Super Puma helicopter which crashed into the sea while on approach to Sumburgh airport in the Shetland Islands in late afternoon on August 23. Four oil workers were killed. There were 16 passengers and two crew aboard.

An interim report into the accident, issued on September 5 by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, said that to date no evidence of a technical failure had been identified and that the investigation was continuing.

The aircraft had been coming from the Borgsten Dolphin platform when it crashed.


From Belfast Telegraph