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Shared Knowledge and Experience Delivers Greater Capability

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

At CHC, our Flight Standards Team plays a pivotal role in fostering collaboration and helping to define best practice across our international operations. Nowhere is this more apparent than in CHC’s worldwide provision of all-weather search and rescue and emergency medical services capability.

CHC operates one of the world’s most highly trained and technologically advanced all-weather search and rescue (SAR) networks, with helicopters, crews, and support teams ready to respond at a moment’s notice to help safeguard the public, offshore workers and members of the armed forces.

The fundamental nature of SAR and emergency medical service (EMS) provision demands crews and aircraft are kept at a constant state of readiness. Within minutes, the team is capable of planning, risk assessing, briefing and launching a rescue mission following a call from the rescue coordination centre. Unlike scheduled fixed or rotary wing operations, no two SAR or EMS missions are likely to have the same mission profile. In many circumstances, extreme weather is likely to be a major factor. Aircrews are required to rely on their skills, training and experience to work the problem and come up with a safe and expedient solution.

“There’s no substitute for experience,” explains Kim Gardberg, part of CHC’s Flight Standards Team. “But it’s impossible to have personal experience of every possible SAR scenario.”

That’s why collaboration is so important, and the reason why CHC recently launched its own internal Global SAR Forum, administered by experienced standards pilots and crewmen tasked with collating the wealth of SAR and EMS flight experience found across its operations.

“It’s all part of CHC’s Taking Care ethos; an approach to improving and maximising the safety and quality of everything we do, by taking care of our SAR/EMS crews’ collective experience, preserving it and making it accessible to all,” adds Kim, himself a former SAR/EMS chief pilot with the Swedish Maritime Administration.

For more than 50 years CHC crews have provided SAR and EMS cover across the world, 24/7, 365 days each year, often encompassing some of the coldest, hottest and most remote places on Earth. From the towering storm surges of the Atlantic Ocean to the heat and remoteness of Western Australia, to white-out Arctic conditions in Northern Norway, our aircraft help to save lives in some of the world’s most inhospitable places.

In Ireland, CHC provides SAR services for the Irish Coastguard, with Sikorsky S92s operating out of four bases at Shannon, Waterford, Dublin and Sligo. In Norway crews provide all-weather SAR cover for the Norwegian government on the A332L/L1 from our northern base at Floro. Additional onshore cover is delivered from Sola, near Stavanger while offshore SAR capability covers the Heidrun, Statfjord B and Oseberg fields. Outside of Europe, CHC’s SAR fleet proves emergency cover in Atyrau, western Kazakhstan, as well as extensive coverage across Australia.
Training and Competence
In addition to maintaining currency on type with regular flying duties, all of CHC’s Flight Standards Team maintain a close working relationship with operational bases and equipment OEMs. Frequent visits help to create an ongoing dialogue with crews, with regular observations of the flight deck and hoisting operations carried out during frequent training flights. Crews have to train on a daily basis in order to maintain currency for all the different types of mission profile they might be asked to fly: recovery from water; deck recovery from a large vessel; deck recovery from a drifting ship or life raft; night landings; overwater search operations… the list is exhaustive. Every crewman must complete a set number of exercises within a specific time period in order to remain current.

All that data is tracked and stored in CHC’s iSAR platform, an advanced analytical application which monitors systems, measures performance and collects flight performance data to provide accurate mission reporting to our customers in real time.

“It’s about building a picture of our readiness, observing how our crews operate, how they utilise the equipment, listening to any frustrations and collating all that feedback to help simplify how we work, all the while making sure crews have the best equipment for their role,” adds Peter McDonell, Technical Crewman Standards. Peter is based in Australia, but like Kim, travels the world visiting all our SAR and EMS operations.

CHC’s SAR/EMS fleet in Australia is benefitting from a significant investment programme in support of our work with the Royal Australian Air Force, Royal Australian Navy and the Australian Army. Capability is being enhanced through the introduction of new All-Weather Search and Rescue (AWSAR) Leonardo AW139 aircraft to the fleet.

”The AW139 has already been in service with CHC for more than 10 years in New South Wales in the EMS role and used extensively in our offshore business, providing level II (not all-weather) SAR services. However, the latest all-weather aircraft deliver greater range and payload, as well as higher safety standards. Each is configured with four-axis auto hover, allowing them to maintain station over water at night,” explains Peter. “As with our operations in Florø, Norway, we’ve also begun to phase in new white phosphorus night vision technology in Australia, which delivers greater clarity and visibility for our crews, especially when operating over water.”

As Peter and Kim emphasise, the vision behind the new SAR Forum is to take care of our collective experience, documenting and utilising it to help develop standardised ways of operating across the SAR fleet, in much the same way as CHC has transformed its oil and gas portfolio.

“The bespoke nature of SAR flights means we have to work closely with OEMs in identifying the most suitable equipment. That can mean custom-built solutions, specific to CHC,” adds Peter. “It’s all about giving our crews the best equipment we can, to help them do their job, which at the end of the day is about saving lives.”

And the lessons learnt and shared don’t just benefit CHC and its customers. Through CHC Helicopter’s leading role in HeliOffshore, knowledge and experience being captured internally through the SAR Forum is being shared with the wider industry.

“Having recently joined CHC, it’s a privilege working within the Standards Team,” says Kim. “Not only do we get the opportunity to meet and talk with CHC’s highly experienced crews, we help bring all that knowledge and expertise together to support not only CHC, but also the wider industry.”