A North Sea helicopter flight landed on the wrong platform after its pilots misidentified their correct landing location eight miles away.
A fresh report from the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) reveals how the S92 landed on a Golden Eagle rig after misidentifying it as the Buzzard facility’s helideck.
It was discovered the pilots had not used the aircraft’s navigation systems but rather flew by sight alone to their anticipated location.
At the time, both pilots – who worked for Bond Helciopters – had been suspended following the incident.
The report said: “Whilst on deck on the Paragon MSS1, the commander misidentified the Golden Eagle complex as the Buzzard complex because it was a large complex of installations and fitted
his mental image and expectation of the orientation of the Buzzard complex.
“He did not use the FMS, Compass or Rigmap to determine the correct destination, and the limited familiarity of the co-pilot with the area may have led him to accept the assessment of the
“The crew were also distracted during their Before Departure checks, by radiocalls from the Buzzard Log operator regarding payloads. The knowledge that another helicopter was inbound to the Buzzard but that G-VINL was number one to land, added a perceived time-pressure.
“However, there was no safety critical reason to expedite their departure. During the final approach to the Ensco 120 helideck, the crew called for and obtained “deck availability” from the Buzzard HLO, supporting their belief that they were approaching the correct installation.
“The crew then carried out the abbreviated Final Approach checklist item,‘Landing Point…..IDENTIFIED’, but were not able to read the name on the helideck and the commander was not aware that he was approaching the wrong deck.
“The commander had advised the PM, in his briefing, that confirmation of the helideck’s name would occur later on final approach, due to the rig orientation.
“After realising they had landed on the incorrect rig, the crew carried out the ‘HelideckMisidentification’ procedure. They completed the first six of the eight actions correctly but, considering the circumstances, the commander believed that he was complying with the requirement to ‘Remain running on deck unless an immediate take-off is the safest action’,by taking off.
“Although the helideck was not properly manned, the crew interpreted the radio operator’s response that there was nothing to affect their departure as tacit approval of their decision.”