A research program commissioned by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has produced findings that could lead to safer night landings on offshore helidecks. The results have been so impressive that the CAA, in conjunction with other authorities, submitted a proposal to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to amend current worldwide standards and practices for helideck and heliport lighting. The proposal was approved by ICAO, and the new standards will come into force on Jan. 1, 2008.
The CAA has issued guidance to UK industry to encourage oil rig and ship operators to upgrade their helideck lighting systems at the earliest opportunity. The guidance, which has met with widespread support from the helicopter offshore community, involves changing the color of perimeter lighting from yellow to green and, where practical, deleting the existing deck-level floodlighting and replacing it with a high-mounted system, located in a safe area on the inboard side of the helideck.
These modifications will make it easier for the pilot to locate the helideck among the general oil-rig lighting and significantly reduce glare. The CAA intends to incorporate the changes when it next updates its guidance document for offshore helicopter landing areas–most likely sometime this year.
The CAA-led changes also recommend lighted helideck markings as an alternative to floodlighting. These involve the implementation of a circle of yellow lighting around the yellow painted aiming circle and a lighted green “H” in the center. This removes the “black hole” effect caused by inadequate floodlighting and makes it simpler for the pilot to judge and control the flight path of the helicopter during approach and landing.
Further trials are taking place and changes will be considered for inclusion in the guidance when this work has been completed. The research, performed by the CAA with the support of research agency QinetiQ, was conducted at the NAM K14 platform in the Dutch sector of the North Sea and at an airfield near Aberdeen, Scotland. Further work is currently being undertaken at Norwich Airport. Dave Howson, research project manager at the CAA, said, “This work has identified a number of lighting improvements that will increase the safety of operations to offshore helidecks at night. All pilots who have seen the new lighting have been very enthusiastic and we are confident that ICAO will adopt our proposals.”