Page last updated at 15:12 GMT, Thursday, 19 February 2009

'Nobody likes helicopter flights'

An offshore worker tells BBC Scotland of what he says is the uncertain nature of helicopter flights offshore, after 18 people survive a Super Puma ditching in the North Sea.

Super Puma helicopter involved in accident
All 18 people on board the helicopter were rescued

Offshore worker Leon Clarke has spent 22 years working in the industry.

Mr Clarke said 14 of those were spent being transported by helicopter, but he then decided only to work on vessels due to his concerns over safety.

He said: "If you ask the 18 or 19 guys on a flight, every one of them will tell you nobody likes flying on them.

"It worked last night basically because that chopper was brought down very comfortably by the excellent pilots and landed on a fairly calm sea.

"But if you go back a few years to the guys down in Norfolk who were flying home from one of the rigs, it just all of a sudden broke up and plunged straight into the sea. So the evacuation procedures didn't have a chance to happen."

'Really exceptional'

Aberdeen worker Mr Clarke, 50, explained: "I've been in several choppers that have been flying along normally and then you hear a sudden noise and everybody looks round wondering 'what was that?'. The next minute the chopper drops a couple of hundred feet.

Survivors arriving back at port
Most survivors were brought back to Aberdeen harbour by boat

"If you get a sudden gust of wind or you're flying along and all of a sudden the wind changes, the thing does get rocked about quite a bit and it's really unsettling to everybody. It really does unsettle your nerves."

He added: "I don't think there is an alternative. That is the quickest and most cost effective way to get workers out to these offshore platforms and rigs. The only other alternative would be a supply boat and the time it would take, and then the transportation from the supply boat onto the rig is just not feasible.

"I feel for those guys last night, because they probably would have thought their time was up, but due to the skills of the pilot they've actually landed which is really exceptional.

"In some ways they should think themselves lucky as training here is much better than in other parts of the world."

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