UK offshore to reintroduce personal locators

The UK offshore oil and gas industry plans to reintroduce personal locator beacons (PLBs) on offshore helicopter flights starting in July.

Offshore staff

ABERDEEN -- The UK offshore oil and gas industry plans to reintroduce personal locator beacons (PLBs) on offshore helicopter flights starting in July.

Personal beacons were withdrawn from service in March following the ditching of an offshore helicopter in the UK sector. Interference from these had caused the “smart” long-range rescue beacons on the aircraft and life rafts to shut down.

Representatives from Oil & Gas UK, helicopter operators, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), and the HSE agreed to re-introduce the beacons next month.

At the same time, all models of personal locator beacons used offshore in the UK will be tested by the manufacturers in accordance with CAA guidance to demonstrate that they are unlikely to switch on accidentally (for example, if dropped or knocked in transit).

Once a model has passed these tests, the results will be given to the helicopter operators who will in turn make a case to CAA for reintroducing the personal beacon onto the helicopters. Additional checks will be made at heliports and on oil and gas installations to check that no personal beacons have been activated accidentally by passengers before they board the aircraft.

“An essential step in the way forward is the early removal of the ‘smart’ shut-down technology from the aircraft beacons so that they cannot be accidentally shut down,” says Bob Keiller of PSN and chairman of the UK Oil and Gas Helicopter Task Group. “CAA has made it clear that this should now be done and so we expect this to happen during the course of the coming weeks.”

06/05/2009

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