The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the UK’s specialist aviation regulator, yesterday 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 are being overseen by the Offshore Helicopter Safety Action Group, set up by the CAA and include the offshore industry, helicopter operators and workforce and pilot representatives.
Oil & Gas UK: Major step forward
In response to the Civil Aviation Authority’s certification of a new Emergency Breathing System for offshore helicopter workers, Oil & Gas UK CEO Malcolm Webb said:
“We warmly welcome the CAA’s announcement today that it has approved a new and enhanced Emergency Breathing System (EBS) and lifejacket for immediate use on helicopters flying passengers offshore on the UK continental shelf.
The development of this breakthrough lifesaving equipment is the result of intense, close collaboration between the CAA, the UK offshore oil and gas industry led by Step Change in Safety, and the manufacturers, Survitec , which will allow its use by passengers over a year ahead of the original schedule. This is a significant step forward for the safety of helicopter operations in the North Sea, and we look forward to the smooth roll-out of the new equipment which is provisionally set for August 18 on flights from Scatsa and Sumburgh .”