The investigation of aviation incidents such as the Cougar helicopter near-miss in July 2011 is the mandate of the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) under the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act. Once a TSB investigation is underway, the public release of information concerning the details or causes of an incident is also the mandate of the TSB. An example of an instance where the TSB deemed such a release to be appropriate can be found at:
In light of its mandate with respect to offshore worker safety, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board
(C-NLOPB) publicly issued its initial incident bulletin on July 23, 2011, upon being notified by the operator of the following confirmed details:
Cougar Flight 851 Departure from Normal Flight Regime
Husky has informed the C-NLOPB of an incident that occurred on a Cougar Helicopter flight from the SeaRose FPSO on Saturday, July 23. On departure from the SeaRose, the aircraft encountered an unplanned increase in pitch and altitude, followed by a decrease in altitude. The helicopter crew were able to stabilize the aircraft into a hover position, completed equipment checks, and then continued to St. John’s. The helicopter arrived in St. John’s without incident and passengers were debriefed by the pilot. The incident is under investigation by Cougar.
An update was publicly issued by the C-NLOPB on August 11, 2011:
Cougar Flight 851 Departure from Normal Flight Regime (Update)
The C-NLOPB has received an update from Husky Energy on the July 23 incident involving Cougar Flight 851 as it departed the SeaRose with five passengers and two crew on board. During the incident the helicopter departed its normal flight regime. However, the crew was able to stabilize the aircraft into a hover, complete equipment checks, and then continue to St. John’s without further incident. The helicopter was then taken out of service, inspected, verified to be airworthy and returned to service the following day.
Husky has informed the C-NLOPB that Cougar Helicopters’ investigation into the incident is on-going and Cougar has taken remedial action to prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future. The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) has also initiated an investigation into the incident.
The C-NLOPB’s role is to review plans and actions that Operators and their contractors, in this case Cougar Helicopters, take in response to incidents. We apply additional oversight in the event of serious incidents such as this one, and we have already established high level communications with the TSB so that we can receive early notification of any of their investigation findings. The C-NLOPB will follow up with the Operator and Cougar Helicopters to ensure lessons learned are implemented and preventative measures are put into place.
Following its August 11, 2011 update, queries about the incident to the C-NLOPB were directed to the TSB. Questions have recently been raised about whether the C-NLOPB’s initial notices adequately conveyed the serious nature of the incident. It is important to realize that the C-NLOPB was not privy to all of the facts collected as the TSB investigation proceeded, and it would therefore have been inappropriate for the C-NLOPB to comment on the details of the incident, or attempt to describe its seriousness to the public.
Offshore operators learned about the incident on the day it occurred. The C-NLOPB expects operators to communicate with their employees in such situations.
Following from the tragic Cougar 491 accident in 2009, the C-NLOPB has access to significant aviation expertise. This enabled the Board to act quickly and wisely following the 2011 incident. Based on the experience of and the information available to the Board’s Chief Safety Officer and Aviation Advisor in the weeks following the July 2011 near-miss, the Board anticipated that additional pilot training in the areas of spatial disorientation and unusual attitude recovery would be helpful in enhancing the safety of offshore workers. Measures were put in place in this regard, working with operators, Cougar and the workforce. This action was proven to be prescient in the final TSB report, released on September 12, 2013.
The near-miss on July 23, 2011 is another reminder of the risks of offshore work. The C-NLOPB puts the safety of offshore workers first and remains committed to operating transparently while respecting the jurisdiction of other regulatory agencies. We will continue to provide as much information as we can in incidents affecting the safety of offshore workers, working within our mandate and in a responsible and timely manner. Just as the process of improving offshore safety has no finish line, our efforts with respect to better communication are also continuous.
Sean Kelly M.A., APR, FCPRS
Manager of Public Relations
(709) 778-1418 – office
(709) 689-0713 – cellular
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