Zero accidents, zero harm to people, and zero harm to the environment. These goals would seem ambitious for any helicopter company, especially one that supports operations in some of the world’s most extreme environments. But “Target Zero” is exactly what the Bristow Group helicopter service is aiming for. Target Zero is a comprehensive cultural and training program that encourages every Bristow regional operation around the world to eliminate accidents, mishaps and downtime.
Nowhere are these goals more important and more challenging than in the Bristow’s oil-and-gas operations in the North Sea, where conditions are harsh, changeable and unforgiving. Communications in such an environment must be utterly reliable. That’s why it’s so significant that the Zetron DCS-5020 Digital Console System recently deployed for Bristow Helicopters’ North Sea operation has been delivering the 100-percent continuity of service they require. This supports Bristow’s global Target Zero effort by helping to ensure the effectiveness of Bristow’s North Sea operations and the safety of those who have a role in executing them.
Bristow Helicopters is a British helicopter service located at the Aberdeen Airport in Scotland. It is part of the Bristow Group, which is based in Houston, Texas, U.S.A. The Bristow Group is the world’s largest provider of helicopter services. They have major operations in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea, as well as operations in most major offshore oil-and-gas producing regions of the world, including Alaska, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia and Trinidad.
Why a new system?
Bob Gellie, senior operations controller for Bristow’s European operations, explains why it became necessary to obtain a new communication system.
“Our old system was seriously unreliable,” he says. “We were told by the system vendor that this was to be expected, and that 100-percent availability was not attainable. But this response was unacceptable to us.
Our operators are responsible for giving weather updates and other vital information to helicopters that are in flight. In an emergency, they and our aircrews must have complete confidence that messages will get through. Uncertainty is simply not an option for us. So we decided to see if there was a vendor who understood our needs and was prepared to stand behind the reliability of its system.”
In search of a reliable system
Bristow began researching available systems. Although they considered several, Zetron’s DCS-5020 quickly rose to the top of the list.
Gellie says that this was due in large part to Zetron’s commitment to “mission-critical” levels of performance.
In its 30-plus years of operation, Zetron has earned a solid reputation for providing reliable communications systems to industries such as utilities, transportation, and especially public safety, where lives are often at stake and downtime is simply not an option.
“There is nothing worse than a communication system that fails when you are in the middle of an emergency,” says Gellie. “We needed a new system that would function at all times, even when we are operating at our maximum capacity. That’s why it’s so important that Zetron’s definition of mission critical is the same as ours. We expect a system to work 100 percent of the time. So do they.”
Bristow had found what they were looking for. They ordered Zetron’s DCS-5020 in February of 2011. It was installed and became operational in early March of 2011.
Easier for operators
The three-position system deployed at Aberdeen is making it easier for Bristow’s three operators to coordinate the roughly 35 flights they handle per day. The flights transport workers and supplies back and forth between the mainland and dozens of oil-and-gas production platforms up to 300 miles away in the North Sea.
With the system’s touchscreens, operators can switch more easily between the multiple radio and telephone channels they use to provide air crews with loading data, weather updates and re-routing information. They also use the system to communicate with platforms about arrival and departure times and other operational matters. If a major incident or accident occurs, operators can also use the DCS-5020 to coordinate the flow of emergency and rescue information between air crews and platforms, and the coastguard and other rescue agencies.
Improved stability and reliability
Those using Bristow’s new DCS-5020–including helicopter pilots, platform personnel, and system operators–praise the system’s improved voice quality, stability and reliability.
“Our operators find the system very easy to use,” says Gellie. “This has improved their confidence. They also like the way the screens can be configured to their individual needs. They actually helped with the screen layouts during their training on the system.”
Gellie, too, is pleased with the system. But most of all, he appreciates the DCS-5020’s flawless performance.
“It’s a first-class system that has exceeded our expectations,” he says. “Ever since we installed it eight months ago, the system’s reliability has been second to none; it has been up and running 100 percent of the time. Based on our experience, I would recommend the system to anyone. Will it help us do our part to meet Bristow’s global Target Zero challenge? Absolutely!”