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Shell’s Arctic Farce: helicopter de-icing controversy

Phi helicopter from the article: Phi Helicopter Crash Kills 8

POSTINGS ON OUR SHELL BLOG

LondonLad:

I wonder if “Outsider” can supply his source (newspaper article / date) of the rumour about Shell flying helicopters without de-icing equipment? Of course with all this hot air about the Arctic warming up etc. maybe the temperatures at the time of the helicopters flying were above that when de-icing equipment was legally required? OR, maybe this is just another piece of rumour-mongering by an individual who has a problem with Shell? Still, “Relieved” seems to believe in the tabloid rubbish. Talking of tabloids – I see that 40% of the articles published on this site are from 7 or 8 years ago!!

REPLY BY JOHN DONOVAN:

I can only guess that you did not read the linked Anchorage Daily News article.

Here is the relevant extract: “All too often, fog socked in the helicopters Shell used to rotate workers on and off its vessels, stranding them for extra time at sea or onshore in Barrow and Prudhoe Bay. While the choppers, operated by PHI Inc., have instrument-flying capability, they weren’t equipped with critical deicing equipment that would allow them to soar into the clouds. And whenever fog rolled in — as it does roughly half the time in the summer — it was often impossible for the helicopters to stay below the clouds while still flying sufficiently above the water. The solution next year will be to put rotor heating on the equipment, allowing Shell to keep the helicopters flying on a more predictable schedule.”

So no “rumour-mongering” but reported undisputed fact by a major title belong to Hearst Newspapers. As to the publication of archive material, it serves as an excellent reminder of Shell’s past exploits, including some that you have commented on and one occasion went as far as “welcoming“.

Re-publication of past Royal Dutch Shell corporate sins hopefully makes it less likely that they will be repeated.

LondonLad:

Having now read that excellent article from that well known rag, the “Anchorage Daily News”, it would appear that the PHI Inc. operated choppers (NOT owned by Shell??) were working within the law. No mention is made of the legal requirement to have de-icing equipment in the area at that time of the year in those weather conditions. So I again believe that my comment about “Outsider” rumour mongering are correct.

REPLY BY JOHN DONOVAN:

No one said the helicopters were owned by Shell.

They were however carrying Shell employees as passengers. “Outsider” is a pilot and has the expertise and experience to comment on such matters in an authoritative manner and in fact has kindly supplied me with a 10 page document by the Joint Aviation Authorities Europe entitled: “Operation of Helicopters Certified for Flight in Limited Icing Conditions.” “Outsider” has a personal interest having been on board a Shell helicopter in the North Sea when the crew lost control due to icing. Don’t you think that Shell has a responsibility for the safety of its employees when traveling on Shell’s business as helicopter passengers? Should Shell not have ensured that the helicopters were equipped with “critical deicing equipment.” With all due respect, I think that you are trying to defend the indefensible.

“Outsider” has also made the following points:

(1) Flight in icing conditions requires de-icing equipment, and additional certification of the aircraft/helicopter

(2) Shell is responsible for specifying the level of de-icing equipment installed on the helicopters provided by a subcontractor

(3) the fact that the helicopters contracted by Shell could not fly under the prevailing conditions suggests, yet again, that Shell’s planning was grossly inadequate

(4) the absence of a “known band of positive temperature” in the Beaufort Sea precludes the use in icing conditions of helicopters certified for flight in “Limited Icing Conditions”

LondonLad

Inference was made by “Outsider” – quote “Shell sent….” Would have been more honest to state that “the PHI operated choppers being used to transport Shell staff etc.” Again tabloid reporting. I am sure there is probably some 100 pages of requirements for flying in icy conditions let alone 10 pages. Point is that it would be great to have a clear statement from the authorities that PHI Inc. flew illegally – I do not think the newspaper article inferred this illegality.

JOHN DONOVAN

As I said, you are trying to defend the indefensible. You seem to have about as much regard for the safety of Shell offshore employees as Shell does. Touch F*** All.

Let other visitors be the judge.

COMMENT BY “OUTSIDER” RECEIVED VIA EMAIL

LondonLad apparently  can’t read…

Nobody has said the PHI helicopters flew illegally, but the fact that they couldn’t fly because they were not equipped for the prevailing weather conditions suggests poor planning.

Apart from routine transport of crews, helicopters also have an important role to play in emergencies for both rescue and medevac. It seems that for much of the time the helicopters contracted by Shell would not have been available if an emergency situation had arisen.  

PS On the Bristow website
(http://www.bristowgroup.com/bristow-news/bristow-in-the-news/2011/how-helic
opters-weather-the-winter-storm/) there is also a discussion

QUOTE

Flight through icing conditions is also a risk. Ice adds weight to the aircraft and can quickly affect its controls and so conditions in which icing could be present normally have to be avoided.

Bristow employs different procedures and systems to deal with icing conditions, depending upon the severity. Bristow’s S92 fleet has a rotor icing protection system which allows it to operate in some conditions when other helicopters cannot, while its EC225 and AS332 models have limited icing clearances which allow them to fly in certain icing conditions for set periods of time. If however serious icing conditions are expected at all flight levels, flights are often disrupted.

UNQUOTE

FURTHER POSTING BY LondonLad

Inference remains from “Outsider” – no legal action taken by the authorities, nobody killed, more up-to-date conversation on this website. Job done. Off to watch Braga then to NY for some R&R – have a quiet week. XXX

POSTING BY “Relieved“:

To LondonLad: FYI – I too used to fly, although my license was limited to fixed wing aircraft. The notion that Shell would not specify that it contractors have aircraft equipped to fly in the adverse conditions routinely encountered is appalling. It clearly demonstrates a lack of regard for the welfare of not only contractor personnel, but also its own employees. As I said in a previous posting, conduct of the part of Shell management is not only grossly negligent, but close to being criminally negligent.

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