• Helicopter offshore operations (HOFO) to or from offshore locations, including helidecks, ships and windfarms, pose certain specific safety risks which were not adequately addressed by Regulation (EU) No 965/2012. Some Member States (including the UK) had adopted additional requirements, including the mandatory use of new technologies, to mitigate such risks and maintain safety levels. However, in order to create a level playing field and ensure that the safety objectives of Regulation (EC) No 216/2008 are achieved, common safety measures have now been established at Union level. These take into account the experience at national level as well as the developments in the sector of helicopter offshore operations.

    SPA-HOFO addresses these issues and enters into force in the UK (and across Europe) on 1 July 2018.

    What is an offshore operation?

    ‘Offshore operation’ means a helicopter operation that has a substantial proportion of any flight conducted over open sea areas to or from an offshore location. An offshore operation includes, but is not limited to, a helicopter flight for the purpose of:

    • support of offshore oil, gas and mineral exploration, production, storage and transport;
    • support of offshore wind turbines and other renewable-energy sources; or
    • support of ships including sea pilot transfer.

    ‘Offshore location’ means a location or destination on a fixed or floating offshore structure or vessel, and includes helidecks, helicopter hoist operations areas and operating sites. ‘Offshore location’ includes, but is not limited to:

    • helidecks;
    • shipboard heliports; and
    • winching areas on vessels or renewable-energy installations.

    ‘Helideck’ means a (final approach and take off area) FATO located on a floating or fixed offshore structure. The term ‘helideck’ includes take-off and landing operations on ships and vessels and covers shipboard FATOs.

    Who is affected?

    Operators conducting any of the following types of operations:

    • a commercial air transport helicopter operator holding a valid AOC in accordance with Part-ORO (Annex IV, Part-CAT);
    • a specialised operations helicopter operator having declared its activity in accordance with Part-ORO (Annex VIII, Part-SPO); or
    • a non-commercial complex motor-powered helicopter operator having declared its activity in accordance with Part-ORO (Annex VI, Part-NCC).

    What is required from affected operators?

    Operators will need to be familiar with the EASA Basic Regulation and the Air Operations Regulation. They will also need to comply with the detailed implementing rules in Annex III (Part-ORO Organisation Requirements), Annex IV (Part-CAT), Annex V (PART-SPA.HOFO), Annex VI (Part-NCC) and Annex VIII (Part-SPO) as appropriate. 

    Operators should refer to the relevant Acceptable Means of Compliance (AMC) and Guidance Material (GM) for SPA-HOFO.

    Affected operators need to understand the rules and ensure they are in compliance by using and completing the compliance document prior to submitting their application.

    Operators must, for example:

    • be compliant with the relevant operating rules
    • complete the HOFO compliance document
    • have an operations manual
    • have a management system
    • have revised their minimum equipment list (MEL) for each aircraft
    • complete and submit the application form to apply@caa.co.uk
    • pay the appropriate fee

    How do you make an application to the CAA?

    • Operators will need to complete the application form (SRG 1841) and the compliance document and submit them to the CAA
    • The form, compliance document and payment details must all be in order before submission to prevent unnecessary delays
    • Once received, the application will be processed by the CAA
    • The CAA may need to visit the operation prior to any approval being given in accordance with ARO.OPS.200

    How much does it cost?

    • Applicants that are already AOC holders will be charged under existing AOC charges
    • Initial application: £2,478 plus excess hour charges* over 14 hours up to a maximum charge of £12,500
    • Variation application to change aircraft (per application): £1,239 plus excess hour charges* over 7 hours up to a maximum charge of £4,000
    • Annual continuation charge (payable on 1 April each year under issue of a CAA invoice): £2,478

    * Excess hour invoices will be raised by the CAA monthly in arrears and sent to the applicant for payment

    How long is it valid for?

    The Specific Approval is issued for an unlimited duration subject to continued compliance with the necessary regulations. When any conditions of the SPA-HOFO approval are affected by changes, the operator must obtain prior approval from the CAA using the application form and before implementing those changes.

    Any questions regarding approvals should be sent to apply@caa.co.uk

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