North Sea helicopter disaster: Trepidation at the heliport but North Sea life and work must go on

A DAY on from the North Sea tragedy and with the search for the missing passengers still ongoing, the helipad at Aberdeen Airport was still busy with dozens of flights going to and from platforms.

Flags flew at half mast at the airport and there was a palpable feeling of loss amid the bustle. The industry was in mourning – but it was not standing still.

Two other helicopter companies, Bristow and CHC, both continued their operations. Every few minutes a chopper was on the move into the blue sky, the familiar noise of the rotors and smell of fuel filling the air.

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In all, CHC aircraft flew 38 journeys out of Aberdeen yesterday, ferrying about 550 passengers to or from the North Sea. Bristow did not give a number but said a full programme of flights was operating yesterday.

Each one was taking workers on their first helicopter flight since 16 of their colleagues perished on a similar journey and with memories of another incident six weeks ago still fresh in their minds.

Jim Smith, 37, from Ross-shire, was returning from the Elgin Field. He said: "It does make you think a bit and it's in the back of your mind all the time. But at the end of the day, you just have to get on with it, hope for the best and hope it's not you. But you have a lot of trust in the pilots who are very experienced."

Alan Keddie was heading to a platform in the Forties Field. He said: "I've been offshore for 30 years but something like this still gets to you.

I am sure there will be people who don't want to go today. People around my age in their late 50s may just say, 'Well maybe it's time to stop this'."

William Talbot, from Aberdeen, returning from a shift on the Safe Caledonia support barge alongside the Elgin platform, said: "There was a little bit of anxiety using the chopper today. A few people will be having some thoughts but it's still the best way to get there and back rather than using boats."

One worker waiting to fly to a support vessel in the North Sea said: "I'm feeling a bit edgy after what happened, but you just have to get on with it."