• Rationale

    Although forming a relatively small proportion of commercial aviation transport operations in the UK, the majority of large public transport helicopter operations are conducted in support of the offshore oil and gas industry transporting an average of 1 million passengers to offshore installations annually. This industry is of significant strategic and economic importance to the UK and it would be unable to function efficiently without helicopter support. Offshore helicopter operations therefore remain an important area of attention for safety improvement.

    Incidents in 2016 involving large offshore helicopters highlight the importance for industry, regulators and operators to remain focussed on improving safety within the sector.  Recognising the continuing economic pressures on oil and gas production, specifically the focus on reducing operational costs, operators and regulators must ensure safety remains a focus and priority for continuous improvement. Work continues with industry and regulators to ensure that the actions and recommendations from the CAA Offshore Helicopter Review ( CAP 1145) are completed and embedded in normal working practices.   

    Onshore helicopter operations also continue to see significant occurrences throughout both commercial and private operations.  With a greater diversity in both types of helicopter and operation, exposure and risks differ from those of the larger helicopter types typically used for offshore operations.  Recognising the importance of onshore helicopter operations to the public, industry and UK security, safety of the smaller helicopter types must receive due attention in terms of improving safety.

    Outcomes

    • The effective implementation of helicopter ditching and water impact survivability research through improved European airworthiness, operating rules and advisory material in order to mitigate the consequences of ditching and survivable water impacts.  

    • Improvement of the performance of ‘Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning System’ (HTAWS) to reduce the number of operational cause accidents.

    • Reduction in the number of ground operations which contribute to accidents  through the implementation of a new ‘Helideck Monitoring System’ (HMS) scheme to better regulate helicopter operations to moving helidecks.

    Actions

    • Participate in and support the EASA Helicopter Ditching, Water Impact and Survivability rule making task, reviewing the airworthiness rules and advisory material, and the European working group established to produce new/upgraded specifications for passenger and flight crew survival equipment. 

    • Engage with the industry to progress the retrofit of HTAWS improvements suitable for implementation in the short term, complete the research on improved HTAWS warning formats, and support the production of a formal industry standard in the medium to long term.

    • Progress the implementation of the new HMS scheme jointly with the industry, to include the production of a joint CAA/Helideck Certification Agency HMS specification for incorporation in CAP 437 ‘Standard for Offshore Helicopter Landing Areas’.

    • Internal review of CAP 1145 actions and recommendations ensuring all work is fit for purpose and is being adopted. Consideration for future continuous improvements which may benefit the public and industry.

    • Commence review of the onshore sector with a view to identifying appropriate areas for improvement.

    • Collaborate with the British Helicopter Association in improving onshore safety culture and safety leadership through bi-annual seminars. 

    • Challenge pilot training programmes and operator practices to ensure best use is made of Flight Crew Operating Manuals.