C-NLOPB improves offshore helicopter safety

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

As the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) remembers those lost, work continues to improve offshore helicopter passenger safety

This week marks the anniversaries of the crashes of Cougar 491 on 12 March 2009 and a Universal helicopter on 13 March 1985. These tragedies claimed the lives of 23 workers, with one survivor. The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) remembers the victims, extends our deepest sympathy to their families and friends, and reconfirms our never-ending commitment to working with partners in a continuous effort to reduce the risks associated with traveling to and from, and working offshore.

Photo: a typical Sikorsky S92 helicopter in Cougar fleet. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The loss of these lives will forever affect Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, other Canadians, and all of those who work in or regulate the offshore oil and gas and aviation industries around the world.

On 28 May 2009, the C-NLOPB announced a Commission of Inquiry into offshore helicopter passenger safety, led by the Honourable Robert Wells Q.C. The Inquiry helped determine what improvements could be made to enhance safety of helicopter transportation of offshore workers. We continue to deeply appreciate the work of Judge Wells and his team and we thank him for his continued guidance in our work.

On 17 November 2010, the C-NLOPB released the Commissioner’s report, which contained 29 recommendations. Several of these focused on the C-NLOPB and others were directed to companies operating in our offshore or governments.

Key improvements made to date include:

  • Dedicated Search and Rescue response capability at Cougar Helicopters, with "wheels up" in 15-20 minutes;
  • A new simulator for Helicopter Underwater Egress Training, more closely resembling the Sikorsky S-92, at the Offshore Safety and Survival Centre;
  • Enhanced Basic Survival Training, including greater fidelity with respect to underwater escape from a helicopter;
  • Improvements in helicopter transportation suits, with a requirement that every individual must have a properly fitted suit;
  • Additional Personal Protective Equipment, including underwater breathing apparatus attached to the suit;
  • A kiosk at the heliport to facilitate passengers’ access to Airworthiness Directives and in-flight occurrences;
  • Passengers are briefed by pilots on any incident that occurred during the flight;
  • Safety forums organized by the C-NLOPB; and
  • A Helicopter Operations Safety Committee comprised of operators, Cougar pilots, workers and the C-NLOPB.

Efforts continue in a number of areas, including research and development into side floatation on helicopters and sea state measurement. The C-NLOPB is currently working on a multi-tiered, performance-based Safety Oversight Management System. An operational safety review of Cougar Helicopters is also underway. The next generation of helicopter transportation suits is being tested.

There is no doubt that part of the legacy of those lost in these tragedies includes improved safety for those who travel to and from offshore installations. While the risk of such travel can never be totally eliminated, the C-NLOPB remains committed to working with its partners in Canada and around the world in the hope of preventing another accident.

Categories: North America Canada Safety & Security Transportation

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