PRECAUTIONS OFF SHORE FLYING

  1. Number of Helicopters are involved in
    offshore flying for oil producing companies (Mumbai, Rajah Mundri) and for
    inter-island transportation in Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands.

  1. Offshore flying is highly challenging
    and poses number of hazards. Number of tragic accidents have occurred possibly
    due to lack of knowledge, Situational Awareness and violation of SOP’s, Check
    List, Rules and Regulations.
  2. One of the serious hazard of offshore
    flying is Spatial Disorientation due to lack of visual references. All the
    pilots must understand the phenomenon of Spatial Disorientation and should be
    careful about this inherent danger of offshore flying.
  3. In poor visibility conditions due to
    rain, fog and low clouds, the pilots may get into Spatial Disorientation which
    may lead to loss of Situational Awareness and CFIT accidents.

Following Precautions are recommended to Prevent Accidents,
Incidents:-

Planning and Preparation.

Knowledge of the
Terrain

Good Planning and Preparation for the Flight is essential for
ensuring the safety and efficiency of the operations.

During planning, it is essential to have a good knowledge of
the terrain, route, obstructions, Minimum Safe altitude, Min Descent Altitude,
Enroute Altitude and Off Route Altitude.

The location and elevation of the obstructions around the
Helidecks, Helipads and Runways should be known to the pilots. It is good
practice to mark the obstructions like Communication Towers, Pylons, HT Cables
and other significant obstructions on the map and also have GPS Coordinates.
The Maps displaying the location and elevation of the obstructions should be
available in the Briefing Room for the information of the pilots.

Weather.

Weather developments in offshore areas are quite swift and
particularly during Monsoon months, the offshore areas experience very severe
turbulence, heavy rains, low clouds, strong winds and poor visibility.

The Pilots and Dispatchers must ensure thorough knowledge
about the weather (Current as well as Forecast) and must keep updating the
weather developments. Various Weather Sites like IMD, Acu Weather, Sky Met,
Meteo Earth and Windy etc. can be very useful to the Pilots and
dispatchers  for building good knowledge
about the Weather.

Make good use of METARS, ATIS to remain updated with the
weather. Difference of less than 4 degree temperature between surface
temperature and dew point temperature is indicative of low clouds and adverse
weather.

Pilots must learn to respect the weather and take no chances
with the weather. Proper risk assessment of the Flight is to be carried out
keeping weather uppermost in mind.

Flying through adverse weather can lead to stress damage on
rotor blades, fuselage and even loss of control. Make good use of weather Radar
to detect, analyse and avoid adverse weather.

Briefing.

Proper Pre Flight briefing is not to be ignored and briefing
between Captain and Co Pilot must cover the Terrain, Weather, Sea Condition, fuel
on board, Point of No Return, load (Cargo as well as Passengers), aspects
related to Spatial Disorientation, loss of situational Awareness, likely
hazards like birds, drones, other aircraft, helicopters operating in the area,
action to be taken in case of any contingencies/emergencies and division of
duties and responsibilities.

Fuel

Remember fuel is life particularly for offshore operations.
Proper Fuel Planning, ensuring that required amount of fuel is available in the
tanks for the flight, keeping a track of fuel consumption and always carrying
extra fuel subject to Max all up weight, to cater for contingencies needs to be
always kept in mind. Taking decision in time to return, divert or land at a
suitable place in case of adverse weather conditions are vital safety
considerations. Avoid stretching your luck too far and past successes should
not influence your decision making.

Spatial Disorientation

Flying over Sea offers ideal conditions for disorientation
particularly during poor visibility conditions. It is essential for both the
pilots to be aware of the hazards of Spatial Disorientation and steps to be
taken to prevent the same. Trusting the instruments and disregarding body
sensations, flying on auto pilot are the key to avoid Spatial Disorientation.
Scanning the instruments, not getting fixated on some particular instrument, Co
Pilot being alert and vigilant to caution the Captain with proper monitoring of
instruments, without any fear or apprehension, are some of the useful tips to
remember.

CRM

CRM is of paramount importance in all types of flying
particularly so in the face of challenging environments. Both the Pilots should
have good interpersonal communication, coordination and fully cooperate with
each other. Captain need to give due respect and importance to his/her Co
Pilot, treat him or her with dignity and involve the Co Pilot in the conduct of
flight and decision making. It is also important for the Captain to keep open
and cooperative atmosphere and encourage the Co Pilot to speak up, give flight
and safety related inputs and even correct the Captain if he is doing something
wrong. While being polite and respectful, the Co Pilot needs to be assertive if
the situation demands. Co Pilot should be fully involved in the progress of the
flight, be alert, vigilant and not leave everything to the Captain. Close
monitoring of the parameters and surroundings will help in maintaining good
Situational Awareness.

Knowledge

Knowledge is Power and Knowledge is Safety. Have good
knowledge of the Helicopter, its Systems,Instruments,GPS,Radar, Nav Pro,Automatic
Flight Control System,EHSI,EADI,location of switches,CB’s, Emergencies,  ILS, VOR Charts, Procedures, interpretation
of Jepson maps, charts etc. More the knowledge, better the Situational
Awareness and Safety. Knowledge about Special Disorientation, Illusions, CFIT,
Wind Sheer, Density Altitude, Vortex Ring, Loss of Tail Rotor Effectiveness,
Dynamic Roll Over and Ground Resonance can go a long way in improving the
safety of the flight.

Passenger Briefing

Passenger briefing is a mandatory safety and legal
requirement. Passengers should be briefed about the Do’s and Don’ts with
emphasis on Ditching Drill including body position a before impact, use of Life
Jackets, escape hatches, fire extinguishers and Emergency Breathing Equipment
if carried. Passenger also should be briefed to inform the crew in case they
notice any leaks, smoke, flame, smell, unusual sound or any other threat to
safety.

Approach Briefing

Proper approach briefing would ensure good CRM, Situational
Awareness, coordinated crew action and awareness about the hazards during
approach. Various aspects related to the approach i.e. correct Height Speed
Combination, on Localiser and Glide Path where available, Minimum Descent
Altitude/Height, missed approach procedure, location of other aircraft,
helicopters, birds, drones, loose flying objects, obstructions around the
runway,helipad,helideck, and wake turbulence should be covered during approach
briefing.

Maintenance

The maintenance of the helicopters at offshore locations has
to be of very high standards and no compromise should be made on the
serviceability of the helicopter. Never fly with snags and get them rectified
even if it involves delay or cancellation, postponement of the flight. Do not
succumb to any kind of pressures and do not fly the helicopter with partial
serviceability.

The Maintenance personnel have a very important role to play
in preventing accident/incidents. Most of the Helicopters flying offshore are
quite old and demand very high standards of maintenance. Couple of emergencies
on a helicopter, require immediate or landing at the earliest. In the absence of
the availability of landing sites, the helicopter may be forced to ditch which
is not the safest option. Hence, the Maintenance staff should be very sensitive
to this aspect and make sure that the maintenance activities and snag
rectification are done in a professional manner ensuring check, recheck and
double check of every activity.

The life of the pilots, passengers is in the hands of
maintenance personnel and they should take it as a moral responsibility to
ensure their fully dedicated involvement in ensuring full airworthiness of the
Helicopter.

The Helicopters flying offshore are subjected to additional
hazards like ingestion of salt particles in the engine air intakes, compressors
and rusting of component parts due high humidity.Regular compressor wash and
close inspection of the components, parts to assess rusting, cracks, leaks are
of paramount importance.

There should be good rapport and understanding between the
Pilots and Engineers. Pilots must explain the snags in detail to the Ground
Crew and they must interact with them to understand the rectification carried
out.

SOP, Check List, Rules,
Regulations

Sops, Check List, Rules, and Regulation must be followed in
letter and spirit. Sop’s for offshore operations should be well drafted and
followed meticulously. Periodic review of SOP’s should be carried out to keep
them updated and useful.

Supervision

Supervisors should fully involve themselves to ensure safe
flying environments, provide necessary facilities, guidance and directions to
the Crew Members. They should identify weak areas/hazards in a proactive manner
and address them on highest priority lest the hazards turn into
incident/accidents. Supervisors should be aware of the capabilities and
limitations of the Crew Members and ensure matching the man with the machine
and mission.

Conclusion.

Offshore flying is highly demanding in terms of the
Airworthiness and maintenance of the helicopter, training, knowledge and skills
of the Pilots, Maintenance Personnel and involvement of Supervisors and
supporting staff. Pilots need to have very high standards of skill, knowledge,
situational awareness, alertness, vigilance and should never be complacent.
Proper planning, preparation for the flight, professional risk assessment,
thorough preflight briefing, approach briefing, timely and sound decision making
are essential for the safe and efficient conduct of operations. Spatial
disorientation and rapid changes in weather particularly during pre-monsoon and
monsoon months pose serious threat and must be always kept uppermost in mind.
Good CRM, Team Work, interpersonal relations and safety culture can go a long way
in enhancing the safety of operations.

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