Breaking: AAIB Releases Report After Helicopter Approached Wrong Platform
The AAIB has today released a report in to a 2018 incident where an Offshore helicopter almost landed on the wrong instalation. The below is an abstract of the report. The link to the full version is at the bottom of this article.
The pilots were operating the S-92A helicopter on a multi-sector route between platforms in the Brae field in the northern North Sea, approximately 150 nm north-east of Aberdeen.
On the third sector from the East Brae platform to the Brae Alpha platform, the pilots misidentified the Brae Bravo platform as the destination and made an approach to the hover above the deck of the platform.
The radio operator on the Brae Bravo platform told the pilots that they had made an approach to the wrong deck; following clearance to depart, the pilots continued the flight without further incident.
The operator stated that it would conduct additional training addressing the task management requirements and complexity during shuttling to prevent a recurrence.
History of the flight
The pilots reported at 0900 hrs for a multi-sector flight carrying passengers and freight to the Brae field. The routing was Aberdeen/Dyce (EGPD) – Brae Bravo platform (BRAB) – East Brae platform (EBRA) – Brae Alpha platform (BRAA) – Aberdeen/Dyce (EGPD). This was the 3rd line training flight for the co-pilot (P2) following conversion to type. The operator had allocated a Sikorsky S-92A, registration G-CKXL, to the flight.
The pilots conducted pre-flight planning, which covered a detailed briefing on the weather, confirmed the routing, and consulted the Heli-deck Directory (HD). The pilots assessed that all three landings required a similar approach path, routing around the flare-stacks on the northern side of the platforms and turning left to land on the helideck in a southerly direction, while accepting light cross-winds. Owing to the wind direction, all the landings were required to be flown from the left seat (LHS). Consequently, the PIC decided that he would occupy the right seat (RHS) carrying out the Pilot Monitoring (PM) role, while the P2 would occupy the LHS carrying out the Pilot Flying (PF) role.
During start-up, the crew entered the route into the Flight Management System (FMS) using the operator’s standard route structure amended manually to reflect the in-field routing. The first sector to the BRAB was conducted without incident. On the second sector, the PIC took control of the helicopter from the P2, who was experiencing handling difficulties, while in the hover over the EBRA helideck. During the turn-around on deck, the PIC debriefed the P2 on the handling of the approach. The pilots confirmed the routing to the next destination as the BRAA in accordance with standard operating procedures (SOPs) and noted that the needles slaved to the FMS were pointing in the expected direction.
The P2 flew the departure from the EBRA on a southerly heading before turning right, whereupon the PIC, acting as PM in the RHS, saw the platform as expected. The PIC noted the FMS needles pointed in the expected direction, and visually identified the platform ahead, mentally noting “there’s the rig and the flare-stack to fly around”, as had been discussed during the pre-flight planning phase. However, he had mis-identified the BRAB, instead of the BRAA beyond, as the destination.
The P2 proceeded to fly manually, without ‘coupling’ the helicopter. After listening to the approach and landing briefing given by the P2, the PIC used the time available to coach the P2 on the handling of the approach. The pilots carried out Shuttle Final Checks during the transit to minimise interruption during the final stages of the approach, except for the final 2 items, which involve arming the floats and confirming the deck name. (This is normal practice owing to the float arming IAS limitation on the S-92). At this stage the PIC noted the FMS needles still pointed towards the platform and matched his mental picture.
The P2 flew around the flare-stack to the north, turning left onto the approach and flew to the hover over the helideck. Throughout, the radar remained switched off, as permitted by the Shuttle Final Checks. Although the floats were armed during the final stages of the approach, the P2 did not read the deck name. (The PIC was unable to see the helideck throughout the latter stages of the approach and did not prompt the P2 to confirm the platform). Whilst G-CKXL was in the hover, the radio operator of the BRAB contacted the pilots on the radio logistics frequency to advise that they had made an approach to the BRAB platform. The pilots acknowledged and, following confirmation from the radio operator that they could proceed, they departed the BRAB. The remainder of the flight was completed without further incident.
The commander of the flight was an experienced offshore commander and line training captain (LTC), conducting line training for the P2. The P2 was an ab-initio pilot who had recently converted to type. This was his 3rd line training flight.
The Brae field consists of 3 platforms – Brae Alpha (BRAA), Brae Bravo (BRAB), and East Brae (EBRA) – roughly aligned in a north-east/south-west direction.
The pilots made a wrong-deck approach to the Brae Bravo platform during an in-field shuttle. This incident arose from the pilots initially misidentifying and selecting the Brae Bravo platform, instead of the Brae Alpha platform, as the destination and subsequently not detecting this incorrect selection. Several prevention controls that should have alerted the pilots to the incorrect platform selection and subsequently aided them in idenitifying the incorrect-selection proved ineffective.
Contributing factors included platform alignment and characteristics, coupled with inadequate identification by the pilots of the key features and differences of the platforms in the Brae field. The choice to fly the short sector manually and to navigate visually, which was appropriate for the good in-field visibility and this stage of line training, resulted in an increased workload for the PIC, as PM, and reduced the attention given to the electronic cues that existed in the cockpit. The short sector provided a very small window of time for the pilots to identify, select and confirm the destination platform with little subsequent opportunity to review. The inherent nature of the early stages of line training increased the workload on the PIC, as PM, and effectively nullified the protections afforded from operating in a multi-crew environment. This high workload, combined with the overriding influences of expectation and confirmation biases, undermined the ability of the pilots to make the correct identification in the first place and then, subsequently, to trap this incorrect selection.
Click HERE for the full AAIB Reprt