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CAA announces review of UK offshore helicopter operations

24 September 2013

The operations of helicopters in the UK offshore sector are to be reviewed in the wake of recent accidents, the Civil Aviation Authority announced on September 24. The regulator said it would work with its Norwegian counterpart and the European Aviation Safety Agency to draw up a report, which it expects to publish early next year.

The Eurocopter Super Puma is the aircraft type that has been involved in most of the incidents in UK waters in recent years
The Eurocopter Super Puma is the aircraft type that has been involved in most of the incidents in UK waters in recent years

Four passengers died in August 2013 and 16 passengers and crew were killed in April 2009 in crashes involving Eurocopter Super Puma aircraft. This type was also involved in three ditching incidents in the last four years in UK waters where all aboard were saved.

The review will focus on helicopter airworthiness, training, operator decision-making and internal management and the protection of passengers and crew.

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. 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."

He added: "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."

Helicopters operating out of Norway in support of oil and gas operations on the Norwegian Continental Shelf have a better safety record than UK-based aircraft.

The British Airline Pilots' Association (Balpa) said: "We will consult with those members currently operating in the North Sea as to their views on the effectiveness of a CAA-led review, but our immediate reaction is this is too little, too late.

Balpa has called on the government to set up a judicial-led independent review along the lines of the post-Piper Alpha inquiry led by Lord Cullen.

The RMT union, said: "RMT welcomes this CAA investigation but it should be seen as an addition and not a substitute for the full public inquiry that RMT is demanding into the Super Puma tragedy.

"RMT is also demanding an investigation in to North Sea safety which extends beyond just the use of helicopters but which covers every aspect of the offshore working environment.

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