A North Sea helicopter landed on the wrong offshore platform after one of the crew punched in the wrong code during flight planning, it has emerged.
The Babcock operated AgustaWestland AW139 was doing a seven stop shuttle run round the Southern North Sea when the incident happened.
Offshore platforms that are expecting a flight to arrive are made to stop activities which could put the aircraft at risk.
This includes crane operations and venting of flammable gas, which can be dangerous to fly through.
The crew of the aircraft, based at Norwich, had originally planned to refuel offshore but had realised that they could complete the trip without having to stop due to a lighter payload than first anticipated.
A report into the incident said: “While re-planning the flight, the fourth destination was incorrectly inserted as Ravenspurn North platform rather than Ravenspurn Alpha platform.
“The error was not noticed and the flight proceeded to land at Ravenspurn North platform, whose helideck was not manned.”
Investigators from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) found that the incident was down to a the replanning of the trip, which involved re-ordering the destinations into one flight plan, rather than the initial two.
This involved the co-pilot selecting the destinations using a drop down menu and it was during this process that the destination was “mis-selected” as Ravenspurn North (RVN) rather than Ravenspurn Alpha (RA).
The issue was said to have been exacerbated by time pressures, due to adverse weather which had disrupted operations earlier in the day.
The report stated: “On departing the West Sole Alpha platform, the helicopter proceeded to the Ravenspurn field.
“The co-pilot made a radio call to request helideck availability from the Ravenspurn Field Helicopter Landing Officer (HLO) but only used the word ‘Ravenspurn’ when providing the name of the platform on which the crew intended to land, instead of ‘Ravenspurn North’.
“The HLO responded: ‘Ravenspurn Alpha deck is available, standing by on the north side’. However, the crew did not pick up on the discrepancy between their intended destination
and the clearance and carried out an approach and landing to Ravenspurn North.
“There was no helideck crew present, as required by the operator, and a radio call alerted the crew to the fact they had landed on Ravenspurn North rather than Ravenspurn Alpha, where they
“Once the crew realised their mistake, they remained rotors running and requested a helideck crew, in accordance with the procedure in the operator’s Operations Manual.
“Once the helideck crew were in place, the helicopter departed for the Ravenspurn Alpha platform.”
The AAIB report concluded that the error could have been picked up on a number of occassions both before and during the flight.
Investigators added: “These opportunities were missed through perceived time pressure, differences in codes and possibly confirmation bias in the crew.”
The AAIB said the helicopter operator carried out an internal investigation into the incident, which took place on January 20.
A number of potential safety actions were identified, including carrying out reviews of flight planning and reiterating the importance of “clear and unambiguous communications”.
Babcock has been contacted for comment.
Last year a pilot made a mistake in identifying a North Sea platform…. and landed eight miles away.
Read more here.
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