The regulator for Newfoundland and Labrador’s offshore oil industry has issued a statement listing improvements made in the measures taken for the protection of offshore workers in the wake of two, deadly helicopter crashes.
The information comes the day before the anniversary of the crash of Cougar Helicopters Flight 491. The helicopter went down on March 12, 2009 killing 17 of the 18 people on board.
The statement also recognized the victims of the crash of a Universal helicopter on March 13, 1985.
In total, the two events claimed the lives of 23 people, with one survivor.
“The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) 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,” the regulator states.
“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.”
Following the crash of 2009, the CNLOPB launched an inquiry into helicopter safety for offshore workers, under Justice Robert Wells.
In November 2010, Wells filed his final report, including a list of 29 recommendations for improvements to enhance safety.
“Efforts continue in a number of areas, including research and development into side floatation on helicopters and sea state measurement. The CNLOPB 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,” stated the CNLOPB.
“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.”
The Board also stated there will always by dangers associated with offshore work.
According to the Board, key improvements in helicopter safety to date include:
• Dedicated search and rescue response capability from Cougar Helicopters, with "wheels up" response in 15-20 minutes
• A new simulator for Helicopter Underwater Egress Training (HUET), more closely resembling the Sikorsky S-92, at the Marine Institute’s Offshore Safety and Survival Centre in Foxtrap
• 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 from aircraft regulators and in-flight occurrences
• Passengers are briefed by pilots on any incident that occurred during the flight
• Safety forums organized by the CNLOPB
• A Helicopter Operations Safety Committee comprised of operators, Cougar pilots, workers and the CNLOPB
More from the CNLOPB on the topic of helicopter safety is available at the Board’s website.