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Historically the North Sea operations have dominated inspection and quality assurance processes through the advent of CAP 437. The merits associated with this initiative are well known, as the direct involvement of CHC and Bristow Helicopters as shareholding participants captured a unique expertise baseline drawn from resident test pilots and senior training captains.
Unfortunately this operator-centric control has fallen away due to the withdrawal of CHC and Bristow Helicopters from the HCA. This rearrangement will also impact on the currency of 'Helideck Limitation Lists', a critical control mechanism applicable to helidecks that do not meet CAP 437 requirements due to obstructions or other operational limiting factors.
The intention of the UKCAA to re-establish regulatory control of the certification/registration of offshore helidecks will, no doubt, influence global perception as regards the necessity of Regulator participation in the process (as opposed to the status quo, in which the sole responsibility for certification is borne by individual installation owners).
The introduction of larger helicopters, operating set routes at set times, coupled with steady expansion, accentuates the requirement to effectively licence helidecks in keeping with accepted Regular Public Transport (RPT) licencing practices.
With the growing number of helideck-equipped rigs worldwide, now in excess of 4000, Investment bank Barclays expects a 6-percent increase in spending this year. Barclays forecasts that there will be 25 percent more "deepwater" rigs (operating at ocean depths of more than 1,500 meters) by 2016.
Decentralising certification is a practical means of opening up opportunity for knowledge and skill sharing at a competitive rate. It also will increase the opportunity for isolated areas to engage quality services which will have a positive outcome on safety overall and specifically encourage the global application of internationally recognised certificates.
The success of above-mentioned decentralisation is subject to a number of critical prerequisites, namely:
- Certification agencies/bodies must demonstrate strict application of an internationally recognised certification standard (e.g. CAP 437).
- Certification agencies/bodies must observe the mechanisms and processes described by an internationally recognised quality control standard (e.g. ISO 9001:2008).
- Helideck inspection personnel must be trained by an internationally recognised and reputable institution, the curriculum of which should include both theoretical and practical components, and the qualification issued subject to practical demonstration of skill and comprehension, covering a minimum of five inspections of helidecks on varying types of offshore installation.
- Helideck inspectors should be selected from applicants with suitable depth of experience as regards offshore helicopter operations (e.g. helicopter pilots, HLOs, etc.).
- All helideck certification reports should be subject to the peer review of a panel consisting of at least two qualified helideck inspectors.
Flight safety is a non-negotiable prerequisite for all aviation operations and this will be the central theme of the monthly Flight Safety Newsletter, "Safety Alert".
The content will include pertinent aviation safety reports, aviation safety articles and audit results relevant to pro-active accident prevention.
Further additions will cover an analysis of the age-old decision making processes critical to the delicate balance between cost saving and aviation safety, with real life de-identified audit results demonstrating the pitfalls of this critical balancing act.
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