Eurocopter Training Services (ETS) will offer a training module for helideck landing officers (HLOs), the surface personnel in charge of helicopter operations on offshore oil platforms, starting in the middle of next year. The company sees a major market in regions such as Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia, where HLOs receive little training, according to ETS officials.
“Apart from the North Sea, where training is well structured, in many places the oil companies’ HLOs receive only brief training,” Ludovic Leroy, ETS’ sales director for the offshore segment, told AIN. It can consist of as few as two hours at the operator’s headquarters. Some HLOs are dedicated to this role, when the frequency of aircraft movements is high enough– 24 to 30 per day, Leroy said. In other cases, they also have other responsibilities on the platform.
Opito (Offshore Petroleum Industry training organization) standards, currently enforced in the North Sea, provide the basis for the ETS training. The Opito standard training course lasts three days.
The Marignane, France-based firm is adding one day for aircraft-specific training. Each trainee will be taught the differences between the Eurocopter EC155 and the AgustaWestland AW139, including whether the main rotor is high, whether the tail rotor is shrouded and how the doors open and the location of the refueling dock.
Each trainee will get a small checklist to use to rehearse before a helicopter lands. Included will be all the helicopters that can be found in offshore operations.
According to ETS, there is a sizeable market for such training. “Our conservative estimate is 1,500 to 2,000 trainees per year for ETS,” Leroy said. There are probably about 3,000 oil and gas rigs around the world and there are two HLOs per rig, he explained. Moreover, employee turnover rates are high, he added.
ETS’s courses cost “a few thousand euros” and will be conducted at the customer’s facility. Leroy claimed that operators can expect a quick return on their investment. “Oil companies can easily count the number of incidents they have, every year, due to poor HLO training,” he asserted. For example, trying to open a sliding door like a pivoting door can break it, and the repair can have a five-digit price tag and put the helideck out of action. Insufficient knowledge of a refueling procedure can cause fuel to be spilled on the deck–a dangerous situation with helicopter engines running. An HLO can also put the passengers’ safety at risk if he leaves their baggage under a low rotor disk.