North Sea helicopter operators expect to deploy improved emergency breathing systems (EBS) progressively, beginning in the middle of this month, to comply with CAA rules issued to improve the safety of offshore helicopter operations in the North Sea. The Helicopter Safety Steering Group (HSSG) expected the first batch of approved equipment to arrive soon after the UK CAA approved the system, which had not taken place as of early last month. Training will be based on a classroom session lasting a maximum of 90 minutes. A passenger will have to know how to inspect the equipment and conduct a buddy check.
According to the CAA rule, as of June 1 operators are allowed to carry passengers only in seats located next to emergency exit windows. They may use other seats if “helicopters are fitted with extra flotation devices or passengers are provided with better emergency breathing systems (EBS).” Beginning in 2016, no offshore flight will be allowed unless all occupants wear the improved EBS or the aircraft is equipped to float on its side. The UK’s helicopter safety steering group estimates the new rule could reduce North Sea fleet seating capacity by about 40 percent.
As required by the CAP 1145 review, the HSSG is also endeavoring to understand more about body shapes and positioning, in particular the shapes people present to a window as they try to escape through it. By studying buoyancy and the bulkiness of survival equipment, the HSSG hopes to create a common policy for clothes worn under a survival suit.
The size and shape study examined 450 participants. The group needs another 150 to complete the study and is looking for men weighing more than 180 pounds to participate. The group is also measuring window size on the various helicopter types in use, although the group points out that a helicopter window cannot be enlarged.
The CAA released the CAP 1145 review in February, in a bid to introduce prevention and mitigation measures to curb helicopter incidents and accidents.