Monday, September 28, 2009

Lighting upgrades enhance North Sea helicopter safety

Article at Flight Global by Kieran Daly 22 September 2009

Helideck lighting has come to prominence as an unexpectedly high priority for pilots in a UK Civil Aviation Authority safety survey. Issues identified include use of yellow and white lights that do not stand out from the rest of the rig lighting; the touchdown spot in the middle of the deck is effectively a "black hole"; and floodlighting used to illuminate the helideck is too bright, with even slight misalignment making things markedly worse.

An extensive series of flight trials over the last five years has allowed design to evolve including a switch to green lighting of the perimeter and removal of floodlights from helidecks. This is now receiving consistently strong reviews by pilots who have experienced it, or elements of it. A final configuration has been developed with green perimeter lights; a single, broken, yellow touchdown marker circle; and a green hollow-H for the touchdown point itself (see picture).

Accidents where lighting could have played a part include the loss of a Eurocopter AS365N Dauphin on approach to a gas platform in Morecambe Bay off the west coast of England in December 2006 and a loss of a Super Puma in February 2009 during a visual night-time approach to the ETAP Platform in poor visibility in the ­central North Sea.

Andy Brazier

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