The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) today announced the approval of a new enhanced emergency breathing system that will deliver improved levels of safety for offshore helicopter passengers.

The move follows a series of measures announced in February to increase the safety of offshore helicopter flights. These were the outcomes of a comprehensive review of offshore helicopter operations undertaken in conjunction with the Norwegian CAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency and advised by a panel of independent experts.

The work to develop the new system and lifejacket has been coordinated by the CAA with the safety partnership Step Change in Safety and the manufacturer Survitec. The approval means that the new equipment can now be introduced into service.

Mark Swan Director of the CAA's Safety and Airspace Regulation Group said: “The safety of those who rely on offshore helicopter flights is our absolute priority. The majority of the work and recommendations we announced in February are aimed at preventing helicopter accidents but ensuring that passengers have the best chance of surviving any accident is also imperative.

“The new breathing system is a major advance on the current system and provides a significantly increased level of safety for offshore passengers.”

Les Linklater, team leader for Step Change in Safety, said: “The certification comes after a lot of hard work and commitment from the EBS workgroup, Helicopter Safety Steering Group (HSSG) and other industry organisations. It is a clear example of the collaboration that we must strive for in this industry.

“We will now focus on the necessary training for the system and would encourage companies to register for training at the relevant providers. The provisional date for the first deployment on flights out of Scatsa and Sumburgh is the 18th August 2014. Other UK locations will follow.

“The safety of the workforce is our absolute priority and we will keep in close communication with the workforce as training and deployment commences.”

The implementation of the new system and other safety recommendations and actions is being overseen by the Offshore Helicopter Safety Action Group, set up by the CAA and includes the offshore industry, helicopter operators and workforce and pilot representatives.

Other changes include:

  • Prohibiting helicopter flights in the most severe sea conditions, so that the chance of a ditched helicopter capsizing is reduced and a rescue can be safely undertaken
  • Changes to the way pilots are trained and checked
  • Recommendations to the European Aviation Safety Agency, as the regulator for helicopter certification and airworthiness
  • The development of standardised helicopter operating information for pilots
  • Examining the impact of commercial contracts and reducing the number of industry audits

Contact information

For media enquiries contact the CAA Press Office on 00 44 (0)207 453 6030 or

To arrange an interview with Les Linklater, please call Stephanie Smart on 07557 669161 or

You can follow the CAA on Twitter @UK_CAA.

Notes to Editors:

The CAA is the UK's specialist aviation regulator. Its activities include: making sure that the aviation industry meets the highest technical and operational safety standards; preventing holidaymakers from being stranded abroad or losing money because of tour operator insolvency; planning and regulating all UK airspace; and regulating airports, air traffic services and airlines and providing advice on aviation policy.

Step Change in Safety is a member-led organisation which seeks to make the UK the safest oil and gas province in the world to work in. The partnership has more than 130 members, and represents operators, contractors, trade unions, regulators and the onshore and offshore workforce.