Helideck Safety Alerts: Refuelling Hoses and Obstructions
Helideck safety alerts have recently been released by the Helideck Certification Agency (HCA) and the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).
Refuelling Hoses Left Out on the Helideck
The HCA say in a safety alert, further distributed by Step Change in Safety:
The hose winding mechanism on fuel cabinets can breakdown which makes it difficult to rewind the hose back into the cabinet after a refuelling operation. Consequently helideck teams are leaving the hose laying out around the perimeter of the helideck.
This practise MAY be acceptable for a short term pending rectification of the system, PROVIDING an adequate & robust risk assessment is in place and the hose is PROPERLY MANAGED for EVERY helicopter movement.
In a recent near miss, a helideck team had left the hose out on deck from a previous refuelling operation. A day or two later when the next helicopter arrived, the hose was left on the downwind side of the helideck which resulted it being under the tail rotor after the helicopter had landed. The helideck team attempted to retrieve the hose but came perilously close to the tail rotor in doing so!
The safety concerns stated by the HCA are:
- When the pump is switched off the hose remains full of fuel so leaving 20-30m of hose out on deck can contribute around 200l of fuel to any incident on the helideck.
- The hose obscures the green perimeter lights which affects night operations.
- The hose suffers increased UV degradation & wear dragging across the deck.
- The hose can end up under the tail rotor putting the helideck team at risk of a rotor strike.
Because of this near miss and the increasing tendency for installations to leave the hose out on deck; HCA are minded to take a much harder line on instances where the duty holder does not have a satisfactory risk assessment or a suitable rectification plan in place to bring the system back in to compliance promptly, say within 6-months.
Upon notification that the system is not operating correctly, HCA will register the system as ‘Non-Compliant’ and issue a Temporary Limitation Notice (TLN) to helicopter Operators advising them of the situation and requiring them not to land with the hose laid downwind. Pilots will be asked to report all such occurrences.
Where a suitable rectification plan is not available, refuelling operations will be suspended until the system is returned to full serviceability.
Helideck Obstructions and Procedural Errors Contribute to Five Near Misses in US
In 4 months over the summer there were “at least 5 near misses involving helideck hazards” on US oil and gas installations according to BSEE:
- 26 May 2016. A helicopter landed to a helideck that the Operator had closed by Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) but had not marked as closed….
- 6 July 2016. After landing to the edge of a helideck (rather than to the aiming circle), the pilot saw a vent pipe sticking up two feet above and three feet beyond the edge of the helideck. The pipe was four feet from the tail rotor. The Operator had not issued a NOTAM or marked the obstruction. After the landing, the Operator removed the pipe.
- 19 July 2016. During an unannounced inspection, a pilot landed on the helideck before noticing the flashing red light indicating that the helideck was closed. The light was positioned so that it was only visible from a 90° arc around the facility. The facility did not have radio communications, and the operator had not issued a NOTAM to advise pilots that the helideck was closed.
- 6 August 2016. After landing on an unmanned facility, the pilot noticed a section of helideck skirting was missing and the three metal retaining bars that had held the skirting were bent upward creating a hazard. The closest metal bar was eight inches from the tail rotor. There was no indication that the helideck was closed (no NOTAM, marking, or status light).
- 15 August 2016. A similar incident occurred on another facility when the pilot noticed several retaining bars for the helideck skirting that were raised and not properly attached to the skirting. The helicopter operator issued a NOTAM warning pilots while the facility operator was repairing the helideck.
- Immediately report aviation hazards on their facilities to their aviation service provider for dissemination as a NOTAM.
- Provide updated warnings of hazards to inbound and outbound aircraft during radio calls.
- Use recognized industry standards to indicate unsafe landing areas.
- Properly mark temporarily closed helidecks as provided in NTL No. 2011 N-08.
- Develop standardized documents that provide helideck information (aka Helideck Information Plates) for all OCS helidecks. Aviation Service Providers should assist Operators as needed.
- Ensure all markings and lighting are in good repair and clearly visible to pilots.
- Check NOTAMs before each flight.
- Contact the facility by radio for clearance to land and to update any hazards.
- Visually check for hazards during the high and low recons.
- Use Crew Resource Management (CRM) to get everyone looking for hazards.
- Plan their approach to the “H” at the center of the Touchdown/Positioning Circle Marking (aka TDPM or aiming circle). Obstacle clearance is predicated on the pilot landing with their seat over the TDPM/aiming circle.
- Report any undocumented hazards to the helideck operator and to your company.
Other Helideck Safety Resources
- Passive Fire-Retarding Helideck Designs
- US BSEE Helideck A-NPR / Bell 430 Tail Strike
- Troublesome Tiedowns
- Helideck and Helicopter Egress Training Facilities
- Helicopter Ops and Safety – Gulf Of Mexico 2015 Update
- Mind the Handrail! – Walk-to-Work Helideck Hazard
- NTSB Recommendations on Offshore Gas Venting
- Wrong Deck Landings
- FOD and an AS350B3 Accident Landing on a Yacht in Bergen
- UPDATE 30 October 2021: RLC B407 Reverses into Sister Ship at GOM Heliport
- UPDATE 16 April 2022: Helideck Heave Ho!
UPDATE 17 April 2017: An example of a tail rotor strike on structure adjacent to a helideck and a subsequent heavy landing was recorded on 15 April 2017 when Sikorsky S-92A PR-CHR, operated by CHC affiliate BHS, on a floating installation off Macae, Brazil: Video
UPDATE 20 February 2018: BSEE, the US offshore regulator, publishes Safety Bulletin 010 “Complacency in Aviation is Everyone’s Challenge” that discusses a flight requested to wrong offshore location, take off with tie downs still installed and walking past a tail rotor.
Aerossurance regularly assists oil and gas companies and vessel operators review and update their helideck procedures and adverse weather policies, examine helideck structural integrity issues and provide independent assurance of helideck readiness.