New Helicopter Survival Suits in Canada

Survitec Group design engineer Alice Cannon presented to SAFE Europe symposium in Bristol in March 2014 on the company’s development of a new helicopter passenger survival suit for use in Canada.  In November 2014, Gaelle Halliday of oil company Husky Energy presented more information at the first safety conference of the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB).

A competitive tender was initiated in 2012 to replace the previous Nautilus HTS-1 design.  That follows an accident to a Cougar Sikorsky S-92A on contract to Husky Energy, off Newfoundland, Canada on 12 March 2009.

Of the 18 on-board, 17 people died, although one passenger, Robert Decker, survived.  Decker’s core temperature had however dropped to just 28°C when admitted to helicopter 2 hours after.  At that temperature unconsciousness and an irregular heart beat, which can result in death, are to be expected.  The Canadian Transport Safety Board (TSB) reported on that accident in 2011 and Aerossurance has previously discussed the airworthiness aspects of that accident.

New Survitec Suit (Credit: Husky)

New Survitec Suit (Credit: Husky)

The winning Survitec suit features several improvement over the HTS-1.  The one major improvement is the use of a permanent neck seal with a hood featuring a secondary face seal.  The earlier suit featured only the face seal, and passengers only zipped up for take-off, landings and announced emergencies.  This left them vulnerable to sudden emergencies.

The upper part of the suit has been changed to yellow for better visibility (yellow is also a less common colour for marine debris than orange).   The suit features a light-weight Gore-Tex material used previously of Survitec’s 1000-series suits (launched in 2010).  Rather than a separate lifejacket, the suit has a integrated inflatable buoyancy ‘element’.  The suit has boots with a ‘less aggressive’ tread and attached gloves.

The suit incorporates a compressed air – emergency breathing system (CA-EBS), known as HUEBA (Helicopter Underwater Emergency Breathing Apparatus), introduced after a long gestation after the 2009 S-92A accident.  While this was mounted on the right hand side on the first prototypes, this has been moved to the left hand side on productions suits.

Marine Rescue Technologies AU10-HT Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) is also incorporated.  As well as transmitting a 121.5 MHz homing signal it broadcasts GPS position to maritime AIS receivers.

These suits comply with Canadian Standard CAN/CGSB-65.17-2012 for Helicopter Passenger Transportation Suit Systems.

The suits will be rolled out in Nova Scotia in March 2015 and Newfoundland the following month.

To support the provision of suits in St Johns, Survitec acquired Newfoundland Marine Safety Systems in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland.

Aerossurance has previously reported on: Helicopter Ditching – EASA Rule Making Team RMT.0120 Update

UPDATE 17 December 2015:  Canadian Coast Guard Helicopter Accident: CFIT, Survivability and More

UPDATE 24 January 2016CAP1145 Helicopter Water Impact Survivability Statistics – A Critique

Aerossurance is an Aberdeen based aviation consultancy.  For expert advice on helicopter safety, equipment certification / selection and survivability matters, contact:

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