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Factors affecting safety during night visual approach segments for offshore helicopters

  • F. A. C. Nascimento (a1), A. Majumdar (a1) and S. Jarvis (a2)

Abstract

Accident rates for night sorties, by helicopters operating offshore, are estimated to be five times higher than for daytime. Recent attempts to redress this problem include new instrument descent procedures and changes to helideck lighting. However, there still remains a need for pilots to transition from automated flight to a manually flown night visual segment during the arrival, and three recent accidents have again highlighted the dangers of this phase. In order to explore what factors affect safety during night visual segments 33 semi-structured interviews were administered to pilots from a number of companies, and grounded theory was employed to analyse the narratives. From this, a template was developed representing pilots’ perceptions of factors affecting safety, and the relationships among factors were hypothetically mapped. Visual spatial disorientation figured as the main concern of participants, stemming from substandard pilot communication, loss of scanning skills during summer months, autopilot limitations, and the requirement to fly to too low meteorological minima. Concerted actions and further areas of research have been proposed to the different stakeholders involved in offshore nighttime operations, going beyond ongoing safety initiatives.

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Factors affecting safety during night visual approach segments for offshore helicopters

  • F. A. C. Nascimento (a1), A. Majumdar (a1) and S. Jarvis (a2)

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