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23 May 2017

Five Key Trends Learned from HeliOffshore 2017 in Quality, Safety & Risk Management

By Stephen McCabe

Last week saw the conclusion of HeliOffshore 2017 in Budapest, one of the most renowned events on the calendar for enhancing offshore helicopter safety. I was delighted to represent Ideagen at this extremely valuable event. 


During my career to date, I have built up strong experience in offshore emergency response – with International SOS and Falck Safety Services - and spent time on the emergency media response rota with the likes of Bristow Helicopters, so I was looking forward to learning more about the various barriers that are put in place to help to prevent such events happening.

During the two-day conference I gathered countless “golden nuggets of information” from both the group table exercises and the presentations from industry leaders on stage, including HeliOffshore’s CEO, Gretchen Haskins and her fellow board members – from the likes of Bristow Group, CHC, Era, Babcock, Cougar, IOGP, et al.

There were a number of key trends, which I have diluted down to the five most impactful:


1.       A real desire to adapt to market conditions

I previously worked for a company called Collabro in Aberdeen, who manages the Vantage POB service, when market conditions first started to descend and feel the impact of an oil price that had begun to spiral into a downturn (particularly evident in the North Sea). During this time, there was a feeling that the oil and gas and offshore industry would simply “batten down the hatches and ride out the storm” – it is clear now that this is not the case. 

Encouragingly, there was a recognition at the event that the market has acknowledged the need to adapt and innovate towards efficiency, rather than clock (or price) watching on oil price – whilst keeping safety at the top of the agenda.

2.       Quality Assurance within OEMS is a Golden Thread

Quality assurance is vital to ensuring market efficiencies, starting with OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers), all the way through to operational flights. Technical and mandatory occurrence reporting and feedback to help analyse events to decide if preventative and/or corrective measures are required.  


Companies within the room strongly encouraged customers to report any event considered as abnormal ( such as EASA document AMC 20-8).

Airbus Helicopters specifically defines theseactions as:

- Preventive measures are aimed at keeping up flight safety. They generally correspond to additional maintenance (inspections, replacement of parts, etc.) but they can also introduce new limitations, either concerning the flight envelope or the operating time of components.

- Corrective measures, which can include product modifications, preclude the identified risk of failure and enable a return to simplified maintenance

Thus further emphasising the need to effectively identify and work together help eliminate risks and non-conformances in design and first article inspection, to enhance quality and in turn safety performance.


3.       “Collaboration”

HeliOffshore’s forthcoming data sharing project to implement digital solutions for a global safety data management system for the offshore helicopter industry.  The system will be deployed in phases beginning this year, pulling in HUMS (Health and usage monitoring system) and FDM (Flight Data Monitoring) information to build up a bigger picture of safety performance and regional variances and themes. 

Without a doubt there is a challenge to be conquered in achieving "the ultimate picture of risk" by combining this technical flight data with data gained in operational safety and risk by those in the field. It is the role of pilots, engineers, and end users to contribute to this in order to allow senior management to pull it together into a single source of the truth.  

Although it is becoming a bit of a cliché, "collaboration" and data sharing are vital to adapting towards a proactive approach in safety management. This shared service will assist in achieving a quicker response to incidents and investigations to identify operational risks.


4.       Safety Culture

As indisputable as it may seem, safety culture and communication are extremely powerful in establishing a high performance and achieving organisational standards. It is one thing having your culture written on a company handbook, but it is another thing when your employees and supply chain also have this within their DNA.  At HeliOffshore, I would have no qualms in saying that every C-level representative at the conference took ownership for the importance of cascading safety messaging from the top down.  

The key element here is that this boosts performance and information gathering, as data is then collected from grassroots level and makes a crucial part of “the bigger picture” within companies. This proactive approach to operational quality and safety data gathering was underlined by our recent Coruson client, Air Transat, within this section of their case study.


5.       Evidence-Based Training

During one of the group exercises one of my counterparts confidently declared that “The whole point of EBT is to show that training is much more than a tick box exercise!”  There was a commonly held view that the offshore helicopter industry is quickly moving towards an approach that is similar to that of aviation, in terms of moving away from “minimum standards and compliance” towards “demonstrating best practice in safety and real safety leadership”. EBT is seen as a key method of ensuring that the excellent progress to date is built upon and the snowball effect continues.

A key quote from HeliOffshore that has continued to resonate with me:

“We cannot always stop bad things happening, but we can stop bad things descending into catastrophe”

I firmly believe that the offshore helicopter sector will continue to learn lessons in safety and drive to the forefront of safety leadership. 

If you’d like to learn more about Ideagen and our quality, risk and safety management solutions, feel free to visit our website or email me on  

All the best for now and stay safe.



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