Rotor & Wing International

Measuring Offshore Safety

Measuring up offshore safety stats from the Helicopter Safety Advisory Conference.

Every year the Helicopter Safety Advisory Conference (HSAC) publishes a complete review of accidents, incidents and statistics that affected helicopter offshore operations for the past year. The report comes in two parts, the first being an accident summary and the second an operational review of helicopter activity in the Gulf of Mexico for the year just ended.

There may be other annual safety reviews, but I have never seen one that is as timely and comprehensive as the HSAC review. All the data recorded and reported is assembled by members who gather the statistics that are voluntarily given by a majority of helicopter operators in the Gulf.

There were 10 contributors for 2017 that included all the larger operators and many of the smaller ones. If a company did not give a report or was not a member of the HSAC organization, safety-related items were taken from public information to make the report as comprehensive as possible.

These reports have been published annually since 1999 with every effort to provide a picture in time of Gulf helicopter operations and accident data. (However, HSAC clearly states that the information is neither verified nor reviewed for accuracy and should be treated as unofficial.)

The safety report lists basic data on the type of helicopter involved, the type of injury (if any), severity of the accident and probable causes. As with all accident reports, the cause tops the list for data used in future prevention.

HSAC uses four broad categories for reporting: technical (like power loss), pilot procedure related (like loose cargo), other (like weather) and miscellaneous (like helideck design or size). These categories are further reduced to two or more subcategories for each of the four main ones. Of interest is the five-year average, which is 2.2 accidents per year. There also is an 18-year total by category. In that range, there were 21 accidents involving power loss, 25 involving loss of control or improper procedures, and seven involving unknown causes, among other data points.

The operational review is a summary of helicopter activity in support of the oil and gas industry. Transportation is categorized by weight of the aircraft and the number of engines in each category. The report is made into five-year comparisons in the first and second blocks, and the fleet data in the bottom two blocks uses three-year averages.

A quick glance at the second chart shows the offshore helicopter market took a pretty good hit since 2013.

The number of helicopters in operation decreased — from 458 across the total fleets in 2013 to 329 in 2017. (The referenced chart can also be viewed on this issue’s digital edition.) The amount of hours flown, passengers carried and number of flights also decreased by nearly half, from more than 2.2 million passengers in 2013 to 1.3 million in 2017, and from more than 300,000 hours flown in 2013 to 188,000 in 2017. RWI