This paper describes the development of a wind turbulence criterion for the safe operation of helicopters to offshore installations. The development of the criterion was recommended following a review of the environmental effects around offshore platform helidecks.
Currently, criteria exist for ambient temperature and for vertical wind component in the vicinity of helidecks, but a questionnaire-based survey of helicopter pilots revealed that the principal safety hazard and source of highest workload is turbulence around offshore installations. The new turbulence criterion will plug a long-standing gap in the guidance on offshore helideck design.
The paper describes how the criterion has been developed using piloted flight simulation in a research flight simulator together with data from wind tunnel tests on offshore platforms. Initial validation has been successfully performed, and extended to include correlation with the large database of helicopter operational flight data records being collected through the UK North Sea Helicopter Operations Monitoring Programme (HOMP).
The turbulence criterion will be used, together with existing criteria on vertical wind component and temperature, in the assessment of new offshore installation designs, or proposed modifications to existing designs, to determine wind conditions where turbulence is likely to be excessive for safe helicopter operations. These will be used to estimate helideck operability and thereby inform the installation topsides design process, and will provide input to the setting and maintenance of helicopter operational limitations for individual installations.
The work will lead to improved safety through better prediction of safe operating envelopes and helideck operability at the design stage. In addition, development of the work is expected to enable the wind environment around offshore installations to be mapped and monitored in-service using helicopter flight data records.
The new turbulence criterion has been included in updated guidance on helideck design, and offshore installation designers are now required to inform helicopter operators about wind conditions which result in violations of the turbulence criterion on their offshore installations (as is currently the case for the temperature and vertical wind component criteria).