Offshore helicopter safety - Transport Committee Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Sumburgh crash

1.  Pre-flight briefing material must accurately describe how to use safety equipment. It is deeply disturbing that it took a fatal accident before the flawed EBS briefing was identified. The CAA must ensure that helicopter operators regularly review all safety briefing material to ensure that it is up to date. In addition, the CAA must consult the offshore work force to ensure that safety briefing material is easily understood and fit for purpose. (Paragraph 16)

2.  AAIB findings have a significant impact on survivors and their families, who deserve to be briefed on upcoming announcements. The AAIB must keep crash survivors informed on the progress of investigations. The CAA could learn a great deal by meeting survivors and considering their experiences. For example, survivors' suggestions on enhancing the visibility of equipment are compelling and are drawn from personal experience. More widely, the oil and gas industry must examine the experiences of crash survivors. In particular, more must be done to address the financial and psychological anxiety of survivors who cannot work. (Paragraph 19)

3.  We find it unacceptable that offshore workers were told by an operations manager that they should leave the industry if they were concerned about helicopter safety. In an inherently hazardous industry, operations managers must prioritise safety, which means facilitating a culture of approachability and openness at all levels. (Paragraph 24)

Super Pumas

4.  Super Puma variants make up some 60% of the offshore helicopter fleet, which means that it is unsurprising that they are involved in more accidents than other models. We heard no conclusive evidence that Super Puma variants are less safe than other helicopters used in the UK offshore sector. We welcome the work by operators, manufacturers and industry safety groups to engage with the offshore work force to address their concerns about Super Pumas. (Paragraph 27)

CAA Review

5.  We welcome the CAA review of offshore helicopter safety and congratulate it on quickly establishing the Offshore Helicopter Safety Action Group to implement its recommendations. At the same time, the CAA must be mindful of the effect of its actions and recommendations on the offshore work force and should consult with industry to ensure its demands are realistic and implemented in a way which continues to allow for "maximising economic recovery" as per the Wood Review. We were extremely concerned to hear about how crash survivors wearing safety equipment struggled to evacuate through egress windows after helicopters capsized in the sea. The CAA must set out how it will address that key issue as a matter urgency. (Paragraph 31)

6.  The CAA identified a worrying difference between Norway and the UK in occurrence reporting, but it acknowledged that more work is required to explain it. The CAA must undertake a joint review with its Norwegian counterparts to uncover why more occurrences are reported in Norway, despite its smaller fleet, and publish its findings within 12 months. (Paragraph 38)


7.  We note that the offshore industry has little appetite for transferring more responsibility for helicopter operations to a European level. As EASA accumulates more power over helicopter operations, the Government must uphold and entrench the CAA's ability to act quickly and unilaterally. (Paragraph 42)

8.  Regulatory inertia results in unnecessary risk for the offshore work force. At the moment, it is difficult to discern whether EASA is prioritising CAA recommendations. We note the Agency's assurance that it will swiftly implement recommendations from national aviation authorities and investigation boards. In future, EASA must respond quickly and transparently to the CAA and the AAIB. The DfT must push EASA to improve its response and implementation times. We recommend that the DfT issues a formal response to the CAA review that addresses all 14 points relating to EASA. In addition, the DfT must ascertain what practical steps EASA is taking to speed up the implementation of recommendations derived from national aviation authorities and investigation boards. (Paragraph 44)

Standardisation of customer requirements

9.  The CAA must use its chairmanship of the Offshore Helicopter Safety Action Group to lead the standardisation of customer requirements for helicopter operators. This is as an opportunity for the CAA to demonstrate its ability and willingness to stand up and lead industry in reducing risk during helicopter operations.

Public inquiry

10.  The CAA review did not consider the evidence that commercial pressure impacts on helicopter safety in sufficient depth. The Government must convene a full, independent public inquiry to investigate commercial pressures on helicopter safety in the North Sea operating environment. That inquiry must also examine the role and effectiveness of the CAA. In addition, the DfT must commission ongoing independent research similar to the SINTEF reports in Norway to examine improvements and threats to offshore helicopter safety. Once published, this research should be laid before Parliament for consideration. (Paragraph 54)

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Prepared 8 July 2014