The offshore helicopter industry latest safety efforts includes the launched of collaborative research to further enhance pilot performance in the cockpit.
A safety priority across the industry is to optimise the training and tools provided to offshore crews, according to Gretchen Haskins, HeliOffshore's CEO. Haskins said the research, which began earlier this month, is aimed at understanding "more about how pilots monitor cockpit instruments during flight."
HeliOffshore has commissioned industry experts Jarvis Bagshaw Ltd. to conduct the research, which has seen 26 pilots participate in the first phase of observational study. The results will be used to "improve training and standard operating procedures, and give feedback to the manufacturers about the design of automation and cockpits," said HeliOffshore's operations director, Francois Lassale.
The research records pilot activity in a situation where visibility is such that the crew need to rely on aircraft instruments, rather than outside visual cues. It replicates a realistic workload that immerses both crew members in duties and has a number of different task components to be monitored.
The pilots enter a simulator and put on eye-tracking glasses. These are connected to a system that combines a camera with an infrared light source that illuminates the eye with bursts of non-harmful infrared light.
“Some light disappears into the pupil and some of it bounces off the iris, cornea, eyelid or surrounding skin. These areas reflect different levels of infrared light, which is picked up by the camera and then analyzed to reveal which instruments are monitored during which periods of flight,” said Lassale.
The study is the result of collaboration between a number of HeliOffshore members, including Airbus Helicopters UK, Bond Offshore, Bristow and CHC Helicopter.
The anonymized results will be shared with HeliOffshore members at the assn.'s Annual Conference in Prague, from May 13 to 15, 2016, after which a working group will determine the best way possible to further improve safety; through pilot training, procedures, policy and system design.