We recently reported on the Civil Aviation Authority’s (the CAA) review, CAP 1145, into offshore helicopter safety which was published on 20 Fbruary 2014. The review made several recommendations to the industry including:
- From 1 June 2014, passengers will only be able to fly if they are seated next to an emergency window exit to make it easier to get out of a helicopter in an emergency (unless helicopters are fitted with extra flotation devices or passengers are provided with better emergency breathing systems); and
- From 1 April 2016, requiring all passengers to have better emergency breathing equipment to increase underwater survival time unless the helicopter is equipped with side floats.
The CAA recently announced changes to these two requirements aimed at improving offshore safety, following discussions with the industry and helicopter pilots. The implementation of the seating restrictions will be delayed until 1 September 2014 however the second change significantly brings forward the date that passengers are required to have better emergency breathing equipment to 1 January 2015.
However, the CAA’s recommendations have not been without criticism. The Norwegian Civil Aviation Authority said on 2 June 2014 that it has no plans to adopt any of the recommendations made by the CAA. It is reported that Geir Hamre, NCAA head of helicopter safety, even suggested some changes, like restricting seat numbers, might actually compromise safety, saying "That will mean that we need to fly earlier in the morning and later at night, which is something we don't like when we have the kind of weather we have and darkness.”
Further, the change to the emergency breathing equipment includes replacing a ‘bag’, where the passenger of a ditched helicopter re-breathes their own air, with a pressurised can of oxygen attached to their suits. Mr Hamre added: "You never like to have pressurised systems in a helicopter that you don't control. Because it's pressurised, it can cause accidents if it explodes or it’s not treated the right way."