Ensuring Safe Offshore Helicopter Operations in English

Ensuring Safe Offshore Helicopter Operations in English
Building a Platform for Safe Landings
Ensuring Safe Offshore Helideck Operations with
Weather-Monitoring and Motion-Measurement Technologies
Weather conditions have a critical impact on all offshore
operations, and on helicopter traffic and helideck operations in
particular. Hundreds of take-offs in severe weather conditions
happen all the time as most operating companies rely on
helicopters to transport their crews sometimes hundreds of
kilometers out to sea. Installations in the North Sea or Brazilian
deep waters, for example, run over 100,000 flights a year, often
in difficult flying conditions like fog or darkness, at an average
cost of $1,500 a passenger. Because these flights are one of the
biggest risk factors facing offshore workers, accurate and reliable
environmental monitoring is a vital tool for ensuring safety and
efficiency – especially as helicopter fleets and flying hours have
doubled in the last six years alone.
Weather conditions have a
critical impact on offshore
Helicopter flights are one of
the biggest risks for offshore
Global standards as the
CAP437 for helideck
landing areas are regularly
updated to incorporate new
Helideck monitoring system
provides real-time data on
prevailing weather
Hundreds of Take-Offs
in Severe Weather
Encompassing a range of different
meteorological and motion
parameters, a good helideck
monitoring system (HMS) is essential
for providing real-time data on
prevailing weather conditions,
as well as reporting tools, data
storage, and critical alarms.
Reliable monitoring systems enable
operational decision-making based
on hard data rather than intuition
alone. The highly changeable
conditions at sea make helicopter
operations particularly challenging.
Keeping Pilots
Fully Informed
As pilots prepare for the flight, they
receive a report from a helideck
landing officer (HLO) on the platform
an hour before take-off. Data gathered
from networks of automated weather
stations provides information on
parameters such as cloud height,
visibility, weather, and wave
conditions. The same parameters
are also measured in the immediate
vicinity of the helideck using a variety
of specialist sensors. Up-to-the-minute
weather data is a critical input to the
flight-planning process.
Although pilots are trained to fly in
fog and darkness, flying conditions
are more difficult in a reduced visualclue environment. This type of data
is important pre-flight information,
giving pilots an accurate picture of
conditions and helping them prepare
mentally for flying in reduced-visibility
The combination of wind and
motion experienced on helidecks is
potentially hazardous, and in extreme
conditions there is a significant risk of
a helicopter being tipped overboard.
As they land, helicopter pilots must
navigate very close to installations
affected by wind turbulence, turbine
exhaust, and gas vents. Monitoring
wind speed and direction is therefore
crucial. To support safer flight
operations, helideck monitoring
systems also offer optional helideck
motion measuring equipment with
the capability to calculate the
helideck acceleration, inclination,
and heave. Sensors are mounted
directly under the helideck center or
below the helideck. As the helicopter
approaches, the pilot checks the
landing conditions from the HLO or
automatic voice radio provided by
the HMS.
Rapid changes in temperature,
humidity, and dew point affect
different types of helicopters in
different ways, and pilots also use
this data when assessing the safety
of their approach and landing. For
example, as water vapor condenses,
the air changes density and affects
the helicopter's rotor lift.
Classified Helicopter
Landing Area is Your
Best Safeguard
A comprehensive review of offshore
helicopter operations, undertaken by
the UK’s CAA, Norwegian regulators,
and the European Aviation Safety
Agency, was prompted by the Super
Puma incident in August 2013, in
which four people lost their lives
on a flight to Sumburgh from the
Borgsten Dolphin rig in the North
Sea. Although the direct impact
of weather has so far not been
concluded in the investigations, the
stricter safety controls proposed will
include a ban on flying in the most
severe weather conditions, changes
to the way pilots are trained, and
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a requirement for the regulator
to approve each helideck for safe
The globally recognized standards for
classifying helicopter landing areas,
the CAP 437 Standards for Offshore
Helicopter Landing, are maintained
by the CAA and are regularly updated
to incorporate new recommendations
based on evolving technologies and
the latest research.
Safer Flights and
Less Costly Delays
Helideck monitoring systems provide
accurate weather and helideck motion
data to help operators avoid costly
and frustrating delays and support
safer flight operations. They provide
real-time information on parameters
such as barometric pressure, cloud
height and coverage, wind speed and
direction, air temperature, dew point,
relative humidity, horizontal visibility,
and motion. The best examples are
also fully compliant with the UK
Civil Aviation Authority’s CAP 437
guidance for helideck classification,
relevant ICAO regulations, and
World Meteorological Organization
Ref. B211420EN-B ©Vaisala 2014
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