Reflections of an Oil and Gas Helicopter Pilot - S58

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OneHungLow
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Reflections of an Oil and Gas Helicopter Pilot - S58

#1 Post by OneHungLow » Mon Sep 11, 2023 3:54 pm

I am currently reading the book noted above (and in the link below) thanks to the good advice of one the ex-helicopter pro's who posts here and was chagrined to realize how little I know about the types these good folk flew back in the day. The S58, noted below is a case in point! It was only when I looked it up that I realised that I was looking at the venerable Wessex).
The CH-34 was also built and developed under license from 1958 in the United Kingdom by Westland Aircraft as the turboshaft engined Wessex which was used by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. The RN Wessex was fitted out with weapons and ASW equipment for use in an antisubmarine role. The RAF used the Wessex, with turboshaft engines, as an air/sea rescue helicopter and as troop transporter. Wessexes were also exported to other countries and produced for civilian use.
Early in 1974, a cargo vessel was inbound from the USA with nine new, 26-seater Sikorsky S-61N helicopters as deck cargo. BEA Helicopters (part of British European Airways before it merged that year with British Overseas Airways Corporation - BOAC to form British Airways) had ordered them. Controversially, when the vessel arrived, the Minister of Aerospace and Shipping, Trade and Industry directed the helicopters to a private enterprise - Bristow Helicopters Ltd (BHL). And Bristow needed pilots to fly them. At 27, with a recently completed fixed-wing commercial pilot’s licence with instrument rating (CPL IR) – the latter flown in a Cessna 310 twin, September 1974 was still not a good time to apply for work with the airlines. Conversely, commercial helicopter operations in the Oil & Gas industry were promising. And Bristow Helicopters had recently begun courses to convert airline pilots to fly this bonanza of helicopters. Though only a budding airline pilot, I was invited to an interview at their Redhill HQ in October. The apologetic receptionist advised me the meeting was off, though she gladly reimbursed my travel expenses from South Devon. They will be in touch. Meanwhile, if I was interested in helicopters, I was welcome to look around them in the hangar. It could have been more encouraging. Packed inside like sardines in a tin were seven Sikorsky S-58 helicopters. They were former German Army Aviation Corps machines, part of the fleet their government had disposed of between 1972-1974. Speaking to an avionics engineer, Steve Hogarth, who went on to become my pilot manager, he explained they would be upgrading them. They will remove the double-banked Wright Cyclone piston radial engines and replace them with a kit developed by Sikorsky: Pratt and Whitney twin pack PT 6T3 turbine engines mated with a combining gearbox (C-Box), similar to the configuration on a Bell 212. Fitted with an additional fuel tank on the port side, they become S-58ETs. The power assurance performance figures were disappointing when they air-tested the first one to be converted. The Sikorsky rep commented, “Oh, we thought that might happen.” Alan Bristow, aka Big Al, was not impressed. “Who advised me to buy these (expletive) things?” Prophetic? Two years later, an accident destroyed one on the North Sea. G-BCRU.
Oxenford, Andrew. Reflections of an Oil and Gas Helicopter Pilot (p. 11). Sabre & Quill. Kindle Edition.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.u ... G-BCRU.pdf

I recommend this recommendation to all the heli-heads here... (so in effect to anybody who cares about aviation)...
The observer of fools in military south and north...

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Re: Reflections of an Oil and Gas Helicopter Pilot - S58

#2 Post by FD2 » Tue Sep 12, 2023 9:53 pm

Andy has put together a very interesting book. I'm reading the second edition and offering some spelling corrections etc. He had a wealth of overseas experience after we flew together in BAH in Aberdeen and he's pointed out some glaring problems leading to avoidable accidents - including by authorities, operators and individuals. A good read.

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Re: Reflections of an Oil and Gas Helicopter Pilot - S58

#3 Post by CharlieOneSix » Tue Sep 12, 2023 10:14 pm

OneHungLow wrote:
Mon Sep 11, 2023 3:54 pm
......Two years later, an accident destroyed one on the North Sea. G-BCRU.
The pilot of that one gives the book a good write up in the intro. He was the one who joined the RN to fly helicopters partly as a result of my visit to my old school with a Wessie 3 in 1967.

My copy of the book arrives tomorrow - lots of familiar names in the 'Look Inside' index on Amazon. Odd to think that it was almost accepted in the 70s and 80s that on average we would lose one oil/gas support helicopter a year in a North Sea ditching. FD2's British Airways Helicopters ditching contributed to the saying of those of us in other companies that a calm day offshore was ideal British Airways Helicopters ditching weather!!

1983 was not a good year for looking at AAIB reports/bulletins of helicopter ditchings in the North Sea... G-BARJ, G-ASNL, G-ASWI. That's without the accompanying formal reports of onshore accidents - in flight main rotor detachment to G-BGXY on a training flight or tail rotor failure to G-TIGD on approach to Aberdeen.
The helicopter pilots' mantra: If it hasn't gone wrong then it's just about to...
https://www.glenbervie-weather.org

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Re: Reflections of an Oil and Gas Helicopter Pilot - S58

#4 Post by FD2 » Wed Sep 13, 2023 4:47 am

Yes C16, but we regained a bit of cred with G-ASNL. Lightning struck twice for the co-pilot, after G-BEID, and he left to rejoin what he considered the safer RAF. :-o #:-S ;)))

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Re: Reflections of an Oil and Gas Helicopter Pilot - S58

#5 Post by CharlieOneSix » Wed Sep 13, 2023 5:06 pm

The book arrived this afternoon. Superb! I've read the first 70 pages and Andy recalls those early days to a T. A good comment about everyone using the same wretched grey headsets and eventually getting personal Peltor ones after many years. Apart from the grey ones being useless in protecting hearing from noise they were a breeding ground for ear infections when they were passed around the aircrew workforce.
The helicopter pilots' mantra: If it hasn't gone wrong then it's just about to...
https://www.glenbervie-weather.org

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Re: Reflections of an Oil and Gas Helicopter Pilot - S58

#6 Post by FD2 » Wed Sep 13, 2023 7:41 pm

That metal and hard plastic headband cut into the scalp, especially after 6 or more hours flying. They very kindly gave us some white fluffy things to put over the ear pieces which helped slightly, if you could find a pair of clean ones when your own were greasy and dirty through weeks of use. The cups weren't very deep either so ears (outer) ached as well. They obviously believed in the old saying that looking after the pennies made the pounds look after themselves...and of course we were all using the same microphones or should that be microbephones! ~X(

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Re: Reflections of an Oil and Gas Helicopter Pilot - S58

#7 Post by CharlieOneSix » Thu Sep 14, 2023 4:57 pm

My Peltor, less microphone, still serves me well some 24 years into retirement as ear defenders when I'm strimming or using the mower. I seem to recall that in Bristow we were required to contribute £9 towards the cost. We were told that the reason was so we would look after the headset having had to part with money for it!
The helicopter pilots' mantra: If it hasn't gone wrong then it's just about to...
https://www.glenbervie-weather.org

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Re: Reflections of an Oil and Gas Helicopter Pilot - S58

#8 Post by FD2 » Thu Sep 14, 2023 7:58 pm

My orange one from BCal is still in immaculate condition and still comfortable. The black Peltor has disintegrated in places - such as the mike where the rubber has perished. Maybe that was due to lots of North Sea bacon butties and spit but I suspect just many years sitting in a box in the garage, as I made a real effort to keep them clean. The noise attenuation on the grey ones was negligible.

Andy Oxenford has asked me to point out that this is a revised first edition despite what it says at the front of the book. He is doing a properly revised and improved second edition to be published next year. Something to do with publisher's Ts and Cs I think.

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Re: Reflections of an Oil and Gas Helicopter Pilot - S58

#9 Post by OneHungLow » Thu Sep 14, 2023 8:08 pm

FD2 wrote:
Thu Sep 14, 2023 7:58 pm
Andy Oxenford has asked me to point out that this is a revised first edition despite what it says at the front of the book. He is doing a properly revised and improved second edition to be published next year. Something to do with publisher's Ts and Cs I think.
He needs a good sub-editor... still lots of spelling errors etc.. but in the bigger scheme of things, his story is compelling and rises above such minuscule trivia and nitpicking...
The observer of fools in military south and north...

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Re: Reflections of an Oil and Gas Helicopter Pilot - S58

#10 Post by CharlieOneSix » Sat Sep 16, 2023 2:42 pm

Just spoken with Andy Oxenford and we're meeting in The Ship in Stonehaven harbour on Monday lunchtime! :-bd
The helicopter pilots' mantra: If it hasn't gone wrong then it's just about to...
https://www.glenbervie-weather.org

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Re: Reflections of an Oil and Gas Helicopter Pilot - S58

#11 Post by FD2 » Sat Sep 16, 2023 8:17 pm

Have a good chat. He's put together a wealth of info for the book and is looking for more, for the 'real' second edition.

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