Enhancing the safety of offshore helicopter operations


A number of UK helicopter companies operate daily to offshore oil and gas platforms across the North Sea, Irish Sea and North East Atlantic. Their operation is vital to the oil and gas industry where rig workers are frequently transferred to and from these platforms.

The weather over these areas is often some of the most inhospitable in the world, with wind speeds in excess of 100 knots and 15 metre waves not uncommon in winter. That’s alongside the more traditional aviation hazards associated such as thunderstorm, icing, and poor visibility. Taken together, the weather plays a dominant role for the pilots who fly their passengers in these areas.

On behalf of NATS, who manage the UK’s offshore airspace, the Met Office provides a tailored weather briefing portal to helicopter companies who fly offshore. The portal is called HeliBrief®, and has been designed in close coordination with pilots, so that the weather information provided fully meets their primary objective of maintaining air safety.

Last week Darren Hardy and Linda Jennings travelled to Aberdeen for the annual meeting with the Offshore Helicopter User Forum (OHUF). OHUF exists for us to continue to work closely with NATS, Babcock, Bristow and CHC – to ensure the service they receive fully meets their operational requirements, and to consider any lifecycle changes which could make them even better to use.

HeliBrief® offers helicopter pilots operating offshore with a wide range of tailored information including offshore observations, icing risk, sea conditions, lightning, rainfall, visibility, wind and precipitation. Weather ‘print packs’ are also provided for pilots utilising the most commonly used offshore routes. Operators apply strict weather based rules on flying, so accurate and reliable briefing information is fundamental to their operations.

Throughout the development of HeliBrief® we worked closely with key personnel from each of these organisations. We observed them in situ, talked to them about what they do and the key information they access frequently. As the development was agile, we were able to show them aspects of the product as it was being developed.

Although the meeting is annual the dialogue between the offshore operators and the Met Office is all year round, and we are pleased to be providing weather information to maintain air safety in this part of the world.

Linda Jennings, Senior Marketing Manager, Aviation


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