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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

CAA Moves to Performance Based Safety Regulation in Wake of North Sea Accidents

Report from the Royal Aeronautical Society in London.

By Andrew Drwiega, International Bureau Chief

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) aims to become a performance-based regulator over the next two years following the findings of a report into a series of helicopters accidents in the North Sea, the last of which resulted in four fatalities.

Following the crash of the CHC Scotia AS332 L2 Super Puma (G-WSNB) on its approach to Sumburgh, in the Shetland Isles, on Aug. 23, 2013, CAA conducted a safety review of offshore public transport helicopter operations serving the oil and gas sector. The ensuing document, CAP145, was published on Feb. 20, 2014.

Speaking during the first day of the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Technology: Friend of Foe conference (July 3-4) in London, Mark Swan, CAA’s director of Safety and Airspace Regulation, told delegates that his organization wanted to provide performance-based regulation with a focus on risk first. He said that the CAA was six months into a two-year process.

Human factors were key and Swan questioned whether technology complexity issues were being sufficiently addressed by the industry and operators. He said that fatalities should never be “normalized” and the immediate reaction after Sumburgh was to address the issues raised, particularly with regard to human factors.

Swan said that the driving force behind producing a quick report had been to get safety measures introduced in the shortest feasible time. There had been several positive results from CAP1145 and the discussions within the Helicopter Safety Action Group, which comprised manufacturers, operators and other specialists: it produced a strong stance on safety; initiated real changes to improve safety; and improved communication to the industry.

One of the results was that the Emergency Breathing System (EBS) for passengers would begin being rolled out from July this year and be compulsory from January 2015.

The RAeS Technology conference, largely created by longstanding member Jim Lyons of the RAeS’ Rotorcraft Committee, gathered together a wide range of industry operators and rotorcraft specialists to discuss whether the increasing complexity of helicopter avionics is providing crews with a wider range of benefits or contributing to human factor issues.

Representatives from a range of operators provided presentations, including CHC, Bristow and Bond, together with others who addressed the complexity of helicopters.

Two speakers, Capt. Lloyd Watson of Shell Aircraft International and Capt. Mark Cameron of Emirates Airlines, drew on lessons learned by the fixed-wing industry and suggested that some could be transferred over to the rotorcraft sector. Watson said that safety was compromised as systems increased in complexity away from being user friendly. He said that the introduction of new technology required training so that the impact could be reassessed and that some complex systems could increase workload rather than simplify procedures for the aircrew.

Cameron added: “Exotic devices create exotic problems,” and stressed the need for the aircrew to be constantly aware of what the aircraft would do next, rather than retreat from the areas that the avionics were taking over. “Pilots still need airmanship,” he said, adding that they are required to retain their resilience, suspicion and airmanship.

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