Bristow Redeploys SAR Helicopters for COVID-19 Medevacs

Image courtesy Bristow Helicopters

Published Mar 20, 2020 6:27 PM by The Maritime Executive

Offshore aviation company Bristow Helicopters is using special-purpose SAR helicopters to medevac COVID-19 patients from North Sea oil platforms, the company said Thursday. 

Three suspected COVID-19 cases have been flown from offshore installations in the North Sea since Wednesday in one of the dedicated aircraft. The three specially-configured helicopters are assigned to support the industry’s response to the pandemic, and they are not used for general crew change flights.

“Bristow is committed to supporting our clients, the oil and gas industry and the region as a whole as we all deal with the impacts of this novel coronavirus,” said Alan Corbett, Senior Vice President for Bristow’s Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia area. “The safety, health and welfare of our workforce, customers and the public we support around the world is of the utmost importance to Bristow, which is why we moved quickly to develop a solution for transporting those suspected of contracting the virus.”

Each of the Sikorsky S92 helicopters being deployed has undergone modifications to separate the flight crew, an on-board medic, and passengers with suspected COVID-19. As the aircraft are built for a search and rescue role, they have a different seating arrangement than crew change helicopters, which makes it easier to maintain separation between those on board.

Additional preventive barriers were also installed, including protective curtains separating the cockpit from the passenger area and airflow systems. Specific entrance and exit points are provided for each of the flight crew, paramedic and passengers to ensure that the required distance is maintained.

Each aircraft undergoes a full decontamination process after every flight, which is made easier thanks to the SAR configuration's waterproof seating and waterproof floor.

Bristow's learnings from the deployment of this UK North Sea solution will now inform operations in other regions.

“This service has been established with approval from the CAA, and the support of Oil and Gas UK, our client base and the relevant health authorities," said Matt Rhodes, director UK and Turkmenistan Oil & Gas at Bristow Helicopters. “Having completed two repatriation flights on behalf of clients in the UKCS, we are pleased to be able to confirm we now have three dedicated aircraft available to companies across the energy sector. We are now exploring further options for other parts of the UK, and other industries, as the national response to the coronavirus outbreak gathers pace.”