Ensuring that the pilots entrusted with transferring thousands of workers offshore every year undergo rigorous, regular training is a crucial element of the oil and gas industry’s commitment to safety.
Simulators are absolutely vital to the aviation industry’s capability to train new and experienced pilots, testing their abilities against the challenges brought by the environments they fly into, while meeting the demands of regulators.
Bristow Helicopters’ simulation hall in Dyce, Aberdeen is the only facility of its kind in the UK. The purpose-built centre has full-size helicopter simulators which use advanced motion-compensation technology, combined with realistic visuals to replicate the experience of flying Leonardo AW189, Sikorsky S-92 and S-76 aircraft.
The simulator facility is a vital resource for Bristow’s oil and gas, and Search and Rescue pilots however, it is not only available to the company’s teams – the hall is available for use by third parties.
Engineered for optimum performance
Steve Simpson, ECR simulator and facilities manager at Bristow Helicopters says, “Our simulators are essential to the ongoing training and assessment of pilots and we’re exceptionally lucky to have this facility at our headquarters in Aberdeen.”
“To guarantee that they work to optimum performance, we implement a thorough preventive maintenance plan. We have a team of highly skilled and experienced engineers on-site, ensuring all devices and associated systems operate around-the-clock.
“Investigation is a key part of our role, in determining issues and where they arise, and providing solutions and rapid implementation. If software in any simulator is updated, it’s my team’s responsibility to test this, ensuring key factors including something as seemingly small as a caution light, are working correctly when in use.
“In the real-world, aircraft are regularly modified and updated, meaning that an exact replication is needed within our simulators to ensure they match the fleet. This requires rigorous ongoing management to plan – it’s crucial that we implement any upgrades without disrupting the availability of the facility.
“Our simulators must also be evaluated and certified by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on an annual basis to ensure they perform in accordance with how a real aircraft is flown, so I work closely with the organisation to ensure each system is fully qualified.
“When a scope of work for a particular upgrade is determined, I liaise with various parties including our chief training captains, and engineering teams, to form a development plan to implement the changes, which can be a combination of hardware and software.
“If an upgrade involves a major change, the CAA must also be aware, and I advise them of the modifications and share quality test guides to show the engineering capability and flight performance of the simulator has been maintained to the approved standard.”
Bristow’s strict training standards require all pilots to be re-assessed every 6 months, so it is in continual use.
Matt Rhodes, director UK & Turkmenistan oil and gas at Bristow Helicopters, says, “The training, development and retention of skilled pilots is a key focus for Bristow. As a former Chief Pilot before moving into my current role, I fully understand the importance of the regular recurrent training that we undertake, exceeding the regulatory requirements, and the benefits that the simulator suite provides.
“Our simulator hall is a fantastic resource for all of our people, from the newest recruits to long-serving pilots and we actively encourage our crew to utilise the facility regularly between flying. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been a vital asset, allowing our pilots to continue their regular training in a safe environment to ensure we can continue to deliver the high level of service our clients are accustomed to.”