What does 'going tech' actually mean? Understandably there are lots of rumours and concern about an aircraft 'going tech' and having to return to base (RTB). Tea Shack News reports on the reasons for RTBs and how often they actually happen.
The Helicopter Safety Steering Group (HSSG) agreed that with the three major helicopter operators, Bristow, Bond and CHC, weekly RTB reports would be provided. This has allowed the HSSG to collate all the RTBs for 2013.
Reports submitted to Step Change in Safety detail there were less than four RTBs a week in 2013 with about 500 flights taking off every week.
Derek Whatling has more than 50 years' experience in the aviation industry. The former pilot is currently heavily involved with the HSSG as a representative of the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA).
Derek spent 20 years flying in the RAF before joining Bristow Helicopters in 1984. His first four years were spent flying helicopters based offshore in the Brent field before moving to Aberdeen to fly Super Pumas. He retired two years ago as one of two Air Accident Investigators for the Bristow Group.
Derek said: "There have been various reports in the media around helicopters which have returned to base and for those who are not familiar with aviation it can be a scary thing to read. I can understand the friends and families of those who travel offshore getting quite frightened for their loved ones when they read about 'avionics not working' or 'engine chip warning lights' but in reality, most are minor issues which can be dealt with in a minor way."
The vast majority of RTBs are for minor issues, but the precautionary nature of them means that a bigger, more significant problem can be identified and eliminated and a potential safety issue prevented.
Most fixed wing flights are between one airport and another where aircraft engineers are available at both ends. But there are no aircraft engineers on installations so a helicopter flying there must return to its base without even the most minor fault where it can be checked out by a suitably qualified engineer. If the helicopter with a fault was to continue to the installation, it would not be allowed to take off again and an engineer would have to be flown out causing disruption and more delays to everyone concerned. Aviation is still the safest method of transport as recognised by the UK Department for Transport.