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OGP Aviation Subcommittee chairman calls for better helicopter safety

Posted on 20 September 2008

When things go wrong in helicopter operations.



Industry knows what must be done to improve aviation safety, and the cost is not disproportionate to the benefits to be gained, said Robert Williams, OGP Aviation Subcommittee chairman.

On safety performance, aviation incident/fatality data over the past decade show a flat trend. It’s not getting worse, but it’s not getting better either. This shows that we haven’t made the step change we’re looking for, Mr Williams said.

In contrast, the safety performance of airlines is improving, with fatal incidents and fatalities going down over the last 10 years. The 10-year fatal accident rate for the average global airline is 1.0 per million flight hours, while the same rate is 5.7 for offshore helicopter operations. Clearly, he said, we have a problem.

Recent efforts of the ASC to help improve aviation performance include:

  • • Revision of OGP Aircraft Management Guide (AMG) with Pipeline Surveillance Guidelines and incorporation of OGP Adverse Weather Guidelines. Additionally, a revised interim AMG guidance on engineer and pilot qualifications, in cooperation with the European Helicopter Operators Committee, has been issued.
  • • Published a Safety Strategy.
  • •Completed work on Recommended Practices.
  • • Pending final coordination on new Seismic Guidelines.
  • • Work groups formed to address implementation of the Safety Strategy, night offshore helicopter accident rates and pipeline operations.

Safety Strategy
Elaborating on the ASC Helicopter Safety Strategy, Mr Williams noted that it came about because OGP member companies were not satisfied with industry’s aviation safety performance. The group has committed to change and aims to improve performance so that the individual risk per period of flying exposure for an individual flying on OGP-contracted business is no greater than on the average global airline.

To reach this goal, the Safety Strategy was drafted and published, and implementation is now under way.

The goals of the Safety Strategy are:

  • • To achieve levels of risk for the conduct of air operations in support of the oil and gas industry that are as low as reasonably practicable, with a target on any operation of zero accidents, injuries and fatalities.
  • • To actively encourage all OGP and other oil and gas companies exposed to aviation risk to participate with the ASC in its safety program.
  • Implementation targets include:
  • • To develop recommended practices for air operations in support of the oil and gas industry based on accident and incident analysis and risk mitigation studies (completed).
  • • To provide tools to OGP and other oil industry members to evaluate the performance of contracted air operators against these standards (in progress).
  • • To influence stakeholders to raise the bar on safety standards by achieving consensus on the need for improvement and harmonization on the standards and recommended practices (in progress).

Challenges
Looking at today’s challenges to aviation safety, Mr Williams noted that exploration continues to move further offshore and into more extreme environments. There’s also a shortage not only of pilots but also of aircraft technicians. Other challenges include environmental concerns (such as aircraft carbon output), reduction of risks, transition to new technologies (such as glass cockpits and sophisticated systems) and the rising cost of new equipment and systems.

What can drilling contractors do?

To help improve aviation performance, Mr Williams first urged IADC members to support the OGP Aviation Safety Strategy, which requires:

  • • Aircraft built to 1990s design standards (target is to use aircraft built to 2000s standards by 2010).
  • • Twin engine aircraft in hostile environments.
  • • Safety management systems that are appropriate, embedded and effective.
  • • Quality assurance embedded in the business.
  • • Aircraft healthy monitoring systems such as HUMS.
  • • Flight data monitoring. This is standard in the North Sea and expanding worldwide.
  • • Training of air crews and maintainers.
  • • Operational controls.
  • • Appropriate equipment – ground proximity warning such as EGPWS and collision avoidance such as TCAS.
  • • Automated satellite flight following systems.

He also encouraged drilling contractors to include in their contracts and implement all provisions of the OGP Aircraft Management Guidelines and the Recommended Practices for Contracted Air Operations. Other issues for drilling contractors to consider are:

  • • Enhanced management of helidecks and quality inspections using OGP checklists.
  • • Using automated systems for improved weather forecasting.
  • • Training such as HUET (helicopter underwater escape training) for passengers.
  • • Influencing regulators, manufacturers and operators through OGP and other associations.

More information about the Aviation Subcommittee projects can be found online at www.ogp.org.uk.

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