NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

'Significant' offshore helicopter safety improvements

An undated handout photograph released by CHC Helicopter on August 24, 2013 shows a Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma L2 variant. " AFP PHOTO / CHC HELICOPTER " Image copyright AFP PHOTO / CHC HELICOPTER

"Significant" safety improvements have been made to offshore helicopter flights but more still needs to be done, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has said.

The CAA, in a progress report, said many of the safety objectives it set last year had already been met.

These included emergency breathing systems and stopping flights over the most extreme sea conditions.

The CAA said it wanted important changes implemented swiftly.

Mark Swan, CAA director of safety and airspace, said: "The safety of those who rely on offshore helicopter flights is our absolute priority.

"Some encouraging progress has been made over the last year to improve helicopter safety but there is still more that can and will be achieved.

"We will continue to report regularly on progress, so that people can have confidence that these important changes are being implemented as quickly as possible."

Must be sustained

Colin Milne, chair of the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) helicopter affairs committee, said: "We welcome this report, which shows that significant steps have been taken towards improving off-shore helicopter safety.

"It is vital that this is sustained through the downturn in the oil industry and that cost-cutting and commercial pressure do not hinder further progress."

The new rules came out of a review of helicopter safety prompted by the deaths of four people when a CHC-operated Super Puma crashed into the sea off Shetland in 2013.

It was the fifth serious incident involving an offshore helicopter in the UK sector since 2009.

'Welcome progress'

Solicitors Digby Brown are representing families involved in two of the offshore helicopter incidents.

Partner Lisa Gregory said: "The report details welcome progress in a number of areas.

"These will be welcomed by the victims of the two Super Puma crashes in the north east I am representing but there are still a number of important questions to be answered about those specific incidents to which we will continue to seek answers."

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