Canadian Government Amends Regulations for Offshore Flights

The Honourable Lisa Raitt, Federal Minister of Transport, announced on April 22, 2015 that amendments to the Canadian Aviation Regulations (“CARs”) regarding offshore helicopter operations in Canada would come into force effective on July 21, 2015.  The objectives of these amendments are to reduce the risks associated with offshore operations flights and to bring Canada’s standards in line with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards and industry best practices.  The genesis of these changes arises in response to an earlier loss.

On March 12, 2009, a Sikorsky S-92A helicopter destined for the Hibernia Oilfield crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of N.L. with 16 passengers and 2 crew members on board.  The lone surviving passenger suffered significant injuries while all other souls were lost.  Following the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s (TSB) investigation of the incident, the TSB released its Accident Investigation Report (A09A0016) and made a number of recommendations.  These recommendations were considered by the federal government and industry in a process of evaluation and consultation.  The result of this work are a number of amendments intended to reduce the risk of injury or death in the event of a helicopter ditching during offshore operations, and should a ditching occur, to reduce the risk of drowning inside the helicopter, and death due to hyperthermia once outside of the helicopter.

These new regulations will:

  • prohibit offshore helicopter operations when the sea state reported or forecast prior to departure along the planned flight route, or reported at the destination, exceeds the sea state for which the helicopter is certified for ditching in water (an exemption is provided for emergency operations);
  • require the pilot-in-command to proceed directly to a land base if the sea state, at any point along the planned route, exceeds the sea state for which the helicopter is certified for ditching;
  • require operators to provide an emergency underwater breathing apparatus to each crew member and passenger on board and train them how to use it properly; and
  • require all crew members to wear a water immersion survival suit specifically designed for crew.

The two Canadian companies that provide offshore helicopter operations off Canada’s East Coast — Cougar Helicopters and CHC Helicopter — already meet the new standards.

To review the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement and the amendments to the CARs, click here.


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