A view from the Bridge

NORTH Sea helicopter safety is once again under the spotlight following the latest incident off Shetland earlier this week.

Seventeen passengers and two crew were rescued after a CHC Super Puma made a controlled landing west of Fair Isle.

It was the fourth accident involving a Super Puma in a little over three years and the second time this year that a helicopter carrying oilworkers has been forced to ditch in the North Sea.

Once again disaster was averted and from all accounts the two pilots brought the helicopter down in textbook style.

But fears have been understandably raised about the safety of the EC225 model

CHC immediately grounded its Super Puma fleet as an air accident investigation got under way and similar action was taken by Bristow and Bond.

As we go to press, a helicopter safety group was meeting to be briefed on the ditching by the operators of the aircraft. The body involves senior staff from offshore helicopter operators, oil and gas firms and trade unions.

For those who work offshore, the series of incidents involving this model of helicopter must be alarming and there are reports that some workers have left the industry due to their concern over flying.

Although it is wise to keep matters in perspective, union leaders are saying it is vital that whatever went wrong and why on this occasion is communicated at the earliest stage

The manufacturers Eurocopter are insisting the aircraft is safe but all of the incidents have involved Super Pumas, so answers must be forthcoming to provide some reassurance to those whose livelihoods depend on offshore travel.

In other news, it’s time for the now familiar seasonal warning - be prepared for winter. It seems to have come rather early this year with forecasts of the first snowfall expected within days.

But with the freak nature of weather conditions these days, it is perhaps wise to be ready for anything.

Councils are reassuring us they are well stocked with salt and grit, and vehicles have been thoroughly checked over and ready to tackle the region’s roads.

And it is definitely worth giving thought to the difficulties severe weather could pose at home, at work or on a journey.

There are certain simple steps that we can take which will make life that bit easier when Mother Nature becomes angry.