Russian Military Disrupts Offshore Helo Ops in Norway

 - December 20, 2007, 9:57 AM

Helicopter traffic around the Statfjord and Gullfaks offshore oil fields in Norway was seriously disturbed on December 11 by the incursion of the Russian carrier/cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov, along with two Udaloy-class cruisers. About 14 helicopters carrying oil workers had to scrub their flights because of Sukhoi Su-33 activity in the air. Sikorsky S-92 pilots with Norsk Helikopter and CHC could see the fighters operating below them. This was a breach of bilateral agreements with the Norwegian authorities, since military exercises have to be announced well in advance. The Statfjord control area includes airspace between 1,500 and 8,500 feet. Additionally, traffic must contact the oil installation, Gullfaks Information, before entering the Gullfaks Helicopter Protected Zone. The Russian military aircraft did not follow these procedures, and all emergency frequencies were blocked by Russian communication. A small coast guard vessel contacted the military ships, which then ceased air operations. The Norwegian government protested through its Moscow embassy, and the Russians promptly apologized.