The proposal to reinstate night flights for offshore oil workers has raised its ugly head once again and the onset of nervous stomachs is about to begin another cycle. That nervous concern is totally justified given the recent nightmare of Cougar Flight 491.
It is a fact, known to the industry, that should an in-flight accident occur, the percentage rating for daylight rescues is somewhere in the 70 per cent range. If that same incident occurred during darkness, the chances of successful rescue drops drastically, to somewhere in the 40 per cent range.
Given the extent and scope of our offshore economic activity, I don’t think we can conclude that there will be no further in-flight incidents or air transport equipment failures. For safety concerns the question is likely to be “when” and not “if.”
Let’s assume that a particular flight has 50 souls on board. An accident during daylight hours would likely see 35 of the 50 rescued and 15 lost. That samescenario occurring at night would see 20 souls saved and 30 lost — a major difference. In this example, the fatalities would literally be doubled.
While travel by helicopter for workers is the currently accepted mode (perhaps tolerated is a better word), industry, government, unions and all others in a position of influence have to do everything within their collective power and reason to minimize risk and endangerment to human lives. Economic gain has to take second place to safety considerations.
Offshore work in a harsh environment is inherently dangerous and demands 100 per cent commitment. The stress of high-risk commuting has to be minimized to the greatest extent possible. To that end, night flights should not be a consideration.
Blackhead, Conception Bay North