Government Response |
The Government welcomes this opportunity to respond
to the Transport Select Committee's recommendations on offshore
We are pleased to note that the Committee has found
no evidence that the Super Puma helicopter is any less safe that
other helicopters used in the UK offshore sector and that there
is also no evidence to suggest that UK operations are any less
safe than operations conducted by other states, particularly Norway,
who operate under a similar safety regime in the same hostile
North Sea environment.
We welcome the Committee's acknowledgement of the
wide-ranging and comprehensive review into offshore helicopter
safety and strong recommendations on safety governance, airworthiness
and equipment. These recommendations will take time to implement
and the Government is committed to ensuring that these are addressed
and followed through. The UK Safety Strategy Board, which includes
representatives from the Department for Transport, Civil Aviation
Authority and Air Accidents Investigation Branch will be responsible
for tracking AAIB recommendations through to their conclusion.
Air Accident Investigation
Recommendation 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." (Paragraph 19).
The Government and AAIB agrees that clear communications
on the progress of an investigation through to its conclusion
can have a significant impact on bereaved families and survivors
of aircraft accidents.
Article 21 of Regulation (EU) No 996/2010 of the
European Parliament and the Council of 20 October 2010, on the
investigation and prevention of accidents and incidents in civil
aviation, refers to the 'Assistance to the victims of air accidents
and their relatives'.
It states that each EU Member State shall establish
a civil aviation accident emergency plan at national level and
that such a plan shall also cover assistance to the victims of
civil aviation accidents and their relatives. Additionally, Member
States shall ensure that all airlines, established in their territory,
have a plan for the assistance to the victims of civil aviation
accidents and their relatives and when an accident occurs, the
Member State in charge of the investigation, shall provide for
the appointment of a reference person as a point of contact and
information for the victims and their relatives.
The AAIB always appoints an Investigator-in-Charge
(IiC) for each investigation it undertakes. The IiC is designated
as the reference person as the point of contact for victims and
their relatives. Additionally, in the case of fatalities, the
Police assign 'Family Liaison Officers' (FLOs) to act as a point
of contact to provide for liaison between the AAIB IiC and the
families concerned. For each major investigation, the AAIB publish
a 'Special Bulletin' (Initial Report), normally with 14 days of
the accident and, as appropriate, 'Interim Reports' throughout
an investigation. An investigation culminates with the publication
of a 'Final Report'. Accident survivors and relatives of those
fatally injured, are informed prior to publication in each case.
In the most recent North Sea helicopter accident,
Inspectors from the AAIB had face-to-face meetings with the majority
of the survivors who were given the necessary contact details
for up-to-date feedback. They were also advised when the Special
Bulletin was to be released. Additionally, in accordance with
normal AAIB practice, as the anniversary of the accident approaches,
survivors and the bereaved will be given an update on the investigation
progress and informed that a presentation of the AAIB's findings
will be given at the appropriate time.
Recommendation 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."
The scope of EASA's responsibilities in respect of
helicopter operations is unlikely to increase in the foreseeable
future. The CAA is already empowered through EU law and the Air
Navigation Order to take unilateral action to address urgent safety
concerns as demonstrated by the issue of the Operational Directive.
There are no proposals to change this.
Recommendation 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
commendations 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."
EASA's legal obligations in respect of responding
to recommendations from the AAIB are set out in Article 18 of
EU Regulation 996/2010. We expect EASA to comply with those obligations.
If EASA determines that rulemaking is an appropriate response
to an AAIB recommendation, there is a rulemaking process that
has to be followed. Any rulemaking task will have to prioritised
within the overall rulemaking programme. The Government will
seek to ensure that rulemaking tasks arising from recommendations
from national aviation authorities and accident investigators
are given appropriate priority.
EASA has formally responded to the CAA regarding
the recommendations raised by the CAA review. In addition, it
has an ongoing rulemaking task in respect of offshore helicopter
safety with Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA) being issued in
2013. The publication of Comment Response Document (CRD) for
the NPA was delayed to allow any recommendations arising from
the CAA review to be considered. The CRD, which was published
on 14 August, contains a section explaining if and how these recommendations
have been reflected in EASA's rulemaking proposal.
The recommendations made to EASA by the CAA review
relate to areas for which EASA is responsible under EU legislation.
It would therefore not be appropriate for the Government to formally
respond to the CAA in respect of those recommendations even if
EASA had not already responded. The CAA continues to discuss
these recommendations with EASA and is aware of the progress being
Commercial Pressure/Public Inquiry
Paragraph 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 enquiry on investigate commercial pressures on helicopter
safety in the North Sea operating environment. That inquiry must
also examine the role and effectiveness of the CAA" (Paragraph
The UK CAA is one of the most respected and highly
regarded civil aviation authorities in the world. Authorities
from across the globe often turn to the CAA for examples of best
practice. The Committee itself has congratulated the CAA on its
Offshore Helicopter Review and for quickly establishing a Helicopter
Safety Action Group for overseeing and implementing the recommendations
of its Review. The Government is committed to overseeing the
implementation of the recommendations in the CAA Review.
With regards to commercial pressure, neither the
CAA, Industry nor Government has seen any evidence to suggest
that safety is being compromised as a result of commercial pressure
from the industry. It is true that competition for contracts,
particularly where contracts are offered at short notice or awarded
at a lower price may impact on the ability of the operator to
recruit and train for a new commitment, but there is no evidence
to suggest this is the case. The Committee's report state that
helicopter operators do not support the accusation that commercial
pressure from their customers affects the safety of their operations
and hotly dispute the suggestion made by BALPA.
It is important for the CAA and industry to be given
time to implement the recommendations from the CAA's Offshore
Review. In the circumstances the Government does not support
the call for a public inquiry on this issue.