The rate at which Bristow Helicopters aircraft are falling from the sky is giving stakeholders, experts and analysts in aviation industry serious concern. Though, Bristow crashed flight was a chartered one, those who lost their lives in any air accident are human beings whether they died in a scheduled commercial or General Aviation flights.
Based on this, stakeholders are worried that the frequency at which Bristow Helicopters aircraft crashed in the last eight years is not only alarming but also a question on the safety records of the airline.
For the records, Bristow Helicopters Nigeria Limited provides aviation services to the offshore energy industry, serving major integrated offshore energy companies in Africa’s oil and gas industry. With headquarters located in Lagos, Nigeria, Bristow Group’s Africa region comprises operations in Nigeria and Ghana.
Bristow is one of the airlines operating the rotary aircraft in Nigeria; the others are Aero and Calverton.
Bristow Regional Operation
Bristow Group’s Africa Region comprises operations in Nigeria, Ghana and affiliate Petroleum Air Services (PAS) in Egypt.
The Regional Director for Africa is Duncan Moore and its headquarters is in Lagos, Nigeria. For more than 50 years, Bristow has been involved in Nigerian aviation and the oil and gas industry. While in Nigeria, Bristow provides helicopter services to the offshore energy industry, serving major integrated offshore energy companies. The marketplace for Bristow’s services has historically been concentrated predominantly in the shallow waters of the Niger Delta area. Little wonder, two of the three crashes it had occurred in the Niger Delta area; Eket and Port Harcourt.
Bristow Zero Safety Target
Bristow’s commitment to safety begins with the belief that “zero” accidents is achievable.
According to the airline, “Our Target Zero safety programme is a main underpinning of our culture, a strong component of our reputation and brand among our stakeholders, an iconic programme for the industry and a brand promise that continues to evolve with our business.”
It continued, “Safety is Bristow’s number one core value, and we’ve built our Target Zero safety culture around this commitment. Bristow has historically had a strong emphasis on safety; our focus has not been driven by a response to accidents. We have built our safety culture over many years, because we believe a strong safety culture will enable us to sustain a high level of safety performance over time. Our Target Zero safety programme has contributed to Bristow achieving an industry-leading safety record.”
The rotary airline stated that a safe culture depends on more than leadership, adding that it is also a function of structure and processes.
Bristow Helicopter stated that it had created a strong safety culture because of its focus on all three elements.
Based on this, there are many questions industry observers would like to know. For instance, If the Zero Safety Target, which Bristow is pursuing and committed to, is anything to go by, how come its helicopters were falling from the skies? Is it that the leadership of the company is no longer committed to pursuing this goal, or could it be that these helicopters fell because the safety structures were not there and the processes inadequate? Is it that Bristow Helicopters safety structures and processes have failed to yield the desires result; zero accident? If so, has the company reviewed its safety structures and processes?
Bristow Helicopters’s Three Accidents In Eight Years
In August 3, 2007, Bristow Helicopters Bell -412 EP helicopter, with registration number 5N-BIQ and serial number 35385 crashed in Eket, Akwa Ibom State, and killed the pilot of the aircraft Cleighton Brown, who was the only one on board.
Investigation revealed that the crash could had been a deliberate action by the pilot; Brown 47, an Australian by birth with British citizenship, who was one of the Bristow training captains.
A report on the accident recently published by the agency in its website indicated that Brown had willfully crashed the helicopter due to psychological stress.
The report added that the deceased captain had boarded the helicopter by 7:30a.m without the co-pilot, a procedure, which negated aviation safety.
The helicopter was barely two years old as at the time it crashed, having been manufactured in September 2005.
The analysis of the Flight Data Recorder (FDR), by AIB indicated that the Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS), warned the pilot against taking off, a warning, which he ignored and still called the controllers that “all right” to take-off.
Contributory Factors To The Crash According To AIB
AIB in its report listed the contributory factors to the crash to include the inability of the organisational safety management system to identify, intervene and mitigate stress and crisis that developed in the circumstances of the pilot, days before the accident.
Secondly, that the pilot did not follow the company’s normal procedures, before proceeding to the flight line, as he flew the aircraft without pre-flight and a co-pilot.
Thirdly, the pilot did not respond to the Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS) warnings as indicated.
Factual Information According To AIB
The Captain, AIB investigation revealed, did not alert any engineer as was the procedure for engine start up, rather, he asked another engineer outside the hanger to accompany him to the aircraft.
The Pilot, AIB stated, also got into the right hand seat of the aircraft without performing his pre-flight walk around check.
In July 14, 2011, a Bristow Helicopters aircraft with registration 5N-BMM crashed at Port Harcourt International Airport (PHIA) barely four years after the 2007 crash in Eket.
AIB in its report on the crash revealed that the two pilots in the cockpit were captains and were paired despite the fact that the airline had no pairing policy.
AIB, who made this known in its final report of the Bristow Helicopter crash in 2011 on its website early this year, added that Bristow Helicopter used its Operations Manual Part A and C that were not approved by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority(NCAA), the regulatory body.
“Bristow does not have a policy on pairing or crew roaster, however, two pilots of same age bracket 56 and 60 years were paired/rostered,” AIB had stated.
Besides, the accident investigation body stated that the two pilots who flew the aircraft before the crash were relatively new on the aircraft and that the Pilot Flying (PF) and Pilot Monitoring (PM) had total hours on type of 684 and 612 respectively.
According to AIB, investigation further revealed that the PF was a training Captain in Bristow Helicopters and that the airline paired two captains with similar experience on the accident aircraft, even though one of them was certified as a co-pilot but that the one certified as a co-pilot on the Cessna Citation 560xls was a certified captain on two aircraft.
The co-pilot, AIB investigation also revealed, had a full complement of a captain, as he wore four bars meant for captains, as at the time of the accident, adding that it would have been difficult for anybody to identify any of them as a co-pilot and that one operating as the co-pilot and the other as the captain in command cannot be overlooked.
The accident investigation body stated that it was the captain flying as co-pilot that gave the command to the captain flying to go down, even when he complained that he could not see and that he was not aligned.
“It is believed that a regular first officer will not give a command like that to his captain. In pairing, necessary consideration should be made to avoid personality clashes, ego and unnecessary supremacy based on cultural and age differences which might jeopardise safety in operation of aircraft,” AIB said.
AIB said in its findings that after the crash, the crew did not carry out the emergency evacuation; rather they left their positions, without shutting down all the engines as stipulated in the emergency checklist.
On Wednesday, August 12, 2015, another Bristow Helicopters Sikorsky S-76C with registration number 5N – BDG – 760540 and with 12 persons on board crashed at the Oworonshoki end of the Lagos Lagoon killing six passengers including two crew members while six others survived.
The Bristow flight crew among the casualties include Captain Joseph “Jay” Wyatt of Oklahoma, US, and First Officer, Peter Bello, a Nigerian.
Source : Independent