North Sea ditchings: Award shortlist for pilots

In October last year a Super Puma was forced to ditch 32 miles south of Shetland. Picture: RNLI/Lerwick
In October last year a Super Puma was forced to ditch 32 miles south of Shetland. Picture: RNLI/Lerwick
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THE four courageous pilots who saved the lives of 29 oil workers in two separate helicopter ditchings in the North Sea have been shortlisted for a prestigious aviation award.

• The two helicopter crews have been jointly nominated for ‘aviator of the year’ title

• The award is part of the annual Flightglobal Achievement Awards

The two helicopter crews - from Bond and CHC Helicopters - have been jointly nominated for the “aviator of the year” title in the annual Flightglobal Achievement Awards.

The crewmen, who have not been named, both managed to ditch their EC225 Super Pumas helicopters safely in the North Sea after the helicopters suffered “potentially catastrophic” mechanical failures in their gearboxes.

In October last year a Super Puma, operated by CHC Helicopters and with 17 passengers on board, was forced to ditch 32 miles south of Shetland. The two pilots were praised for carrying out a textbook controlled ditching while the helicopter was en route from Aberdeen to the West Phoenix drilling rig, being operated on behalf of Total.

And in May last year the heroism and skill of two helicopter pilots was praised after a Bond-operated Super Puma, with i12 passengers on board, ditched 25 miles east of Aberdeen after taking off from the Aberdeen heliport bound for the Maersk Resilient drilling rig, 200 miles east south east of Aberdeen.

The two helicopter crews have been shortlisted for the prestigious Aviator of the Year award, together with Felix Baumgartner, the Austrian sky diver set a world record by free-falling 24 miles from space, Slovenian pilot Matevza Lenarcica, who set a new world record for flying around the globe in the world’s smallest aircraft, and NATS, the British air traffic service, for their work handling flights during the 2012 Olympics in London.

The nomination for the North Sea ditching crews states: “When the pilots of an oil platform-bound Eurocopter EC225 Super Puma operated by Bond Offshore Helicopters were forced to ditch in the North Sea 40kilomerttres off Aberdeen, all 14 passengers and crew were rescued without serious injury. The pilots’ airmanship was praised by their company, which said: ‘It’s a difficult procedure and as a result of their skill, 12 passengers and the two crew themselves were able to return to their families.’

“Five months later, it was a case of history repeating as the pilots of another Super Puma, this time operated by CHC Scotia, were also forced to perform the procedure near the Shetland Isles. Again, passengers and crew escaped without injury, earning the recognition of oil company Total. This nomination recognises the contribution of both crews.”

Mark Abbey, CHC Helicopter’s regional director for the West North Sea, welcomed the nomination. He said: “They train in order to be able to respond in a calm, controlled and professional manner in exceptional circumstances, and it is an honour to have their efforts recognised by the industry.”

Luke Farajallah, managing director of Bond Offshore Helicopters, said: “The fact that all 14 passengers were brought safely home is testament to the quality of our pilot training and the rigour of those safety procedures practised on a daily basis.”

The Flightglobal Achievement Awards will be presented at the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace during the Paris Air Show on 18 June.