• 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 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 ASD-STAN European working group established to produce new/upgraded specifications for passenger and flight crew survival equipment.
    • March 2018: New Certification Specifications (CS) and Acceptable Means of Compliance (AMC) for helicopter ditching finalised and publication by EASA imminent; these rules will apply to new helicopter designs; Phrase 2 of the rule making task will review this material to determine what should be applied retrospectively to the existing fleet under Part 26. A formal European standard for emergency breathing systems was published by ASD-STAN as prEN 4856 in December 2017; this expected to be adopted by CEN as EN 4856 by June 2018; EASA have committed to adopting this standard as an ETSO later in 2018; work on new standards for lifejackets, immersion suits and life rafts continues.

    • 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.
    • March 2018: Development of service bulletin for retrofit of CAP 1519 functionality to Honeywell HTAWS progressing well; publication expected Q4 2018. Cranfield experimental work completed; reporting expected to be completed by June 2018; results will be input to EUROCAE WG activity to produce formal Class A HTAWS MOPS which will eventually supersede the CAP 1519 standard. CAA to participate in new EASA rule making task on HTAWS.

    • 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’.
    • March 2018: New CAA/Helideck Certification Agency HMS specification finalised and agreed with industry; to be published by HCA on 1 April 2018. Operations to vessels will be restricted to stable deck conditions from 1 April 2021 unless equipped with a HMS meeting the new standard. The new standard is being incorporated in Amdt. 1 to CAP 437 8th Edition expected to be published during Q3 of 2018.

    • 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.