Diving Lore

Offshore Life

It's Hardcore On The Heli-Deck!

Helideck Crew At WorkThe movie image of people having to duck their heads when approaching a helicopter is something of a myth these days (unless the helicopter is a very old one). Most modern helicopters main rotors will still 'droop' in a high wind, but not dangerously so (unless you are a giant/6.5"+).
On a serious note a malignant, ever-present danger for the heli-deck crew is the lethal tail rotor. Offshore helicopters rarely use an enclosed tail rotor and so it is the external type that is found on them. Normally offset to one side of the tail it, like it's bigger cousin, is nearly invisible in low-light conditions. Great concentration must be taken by them when loading baggage and moving about. All it takes is a lapse in concentration, walking to the 'wrong' side of the tail area and horrific consequences can be the result.
Thankfully, fatalities with the tail rotor are mercifully rare, but those that have happened serve as an ultimate warning to others.
It's not just conduct on the heli-deck that can be of importance. A task-master of an OIM often has the HDC involved in some 'creative' rescue / disaster drills. One example is a simulated helicopter crash on the helideck and then onto the pipe deck with dummy casualties to rescue, pretend fires to put out and so on.
Thats the serious business, but now onto when the normal run-of-the-mill helicopter landing on board a platform. It's time to call upon the hardcore heli-deck crew to work their magic... Take it away boys!

The Heli-Deck Crew

They are there every time a helicopter lands, and they are there every time it takes-off. They do not hesitate and rarely screw-up in ensuring the safety of helicopter and passengers. Is this why they rarely smile or wave? They scurry about and move to and fro they never remain still for too long. Who are these strange, brooding types? They are the Heli-Deck Crew (HDC) of an Offshore Platform!

Hand-picked and recruited solely from among the deck crew and drill crew of an offshore platform they are among the roughest, toughest oil workers offshore. Stern, able and quick to respond to given situations they make short thrift of anything or anyone that stands in the way. Prerequisites are believed to include an in-depth knowledge of Union street, a loud voice capable of out-roaring a rotor blade and a brooding ambience.
Heli-deck crews are not born, but made via an intense course at RGIT that teaches them all they need to know in this macho, thrusting discipline. The course includes refueling, load/unload, safe zone compliance, conducting fire-watch, helicopter marshaling and escorting passengers on and off the craft etc. After the course is finished they are secretly whisked away to an underground bunker at RGIT to be taught the more brooding ways of the heli-deck crew. Exact details are not known but are thought to include: How to out-smart troublesome pilots who out-macho the HLO and the mysterious helideck shuffle. Owing to the secret nature of these 'after-course' teachings all HDC will deny all knowledge of these teachings and will pretend to look at you as if you are insane if you ask them any further.

Overseen by the watchful and grizzled face of the Helicopter Landing Officer (HLO) the entire HDC make a formidable team. With bulky flame-retardant jackets and overalls they certainly look the part but are the real deal? Read on and we'll find out.
At least thirty minutes before a helicopter lands they must capable of appearing, almost by magic , in heli-admin to be ready for a landing helicopter.

Helicopter Inbound


A designated fire-fighter among the HDC takes command of a foam-water cannon. It's primed and ready and he trains it on the helicopter for the entire duration of it's landing until take-off. At a given signal or visual sight of danger he will unleash its power. He must be careful though, its powerful blast could easily send a man whirling over the side of the helideck to his doom.

Usually though it's aimed directly at the pilot to test his steel-like nerves and trust in the heli-deck crew. The pilot may retaliate may pull off some fancy flying moves around the platform instead, passing close and whirling about before landing. Thus begins the duel.

On landing, the HLO alone approaches the helicopter first. Approaching the pilot a bold look of rivalry may pass between them. One is master of the air, the other is only master of the helideck. However, each is upon the others territory and each will take the measure of the other. A minute is always long enough for this though, after which they both will put aside their differences and the HLO collects the manifests and newspapers (they are passed to heli-admin) then the bags are unloaded, laid out on the deck for the passengers to pick up. After the HDC have walked around the helicopter and are satisfied that all is well the doors are opened and out come the passengers. Not much is said in greeting, in fact usually nothing at all is said. The door being slid open signals that it is ok to disembark. If something has to be said its usually 'Get your arse out of that door!' to the more reluctant passengers. The grim-faced looks and apprehensive expressions from the HDC may unsettle rookie oil workers. But it's a necessary way, for from now on the harsh ways of the platform take priority and the serious nature of the HDC is ever present.

The passengers file out out and pass in a broad circle around to the front and away from the whirling rotor blades. They disappear into the labyrinth of the Offshore Platform. The departing oil workers are now brought up to the heli-deck and the HDC now have to conduct the escorting process in reverse. This is a tense moment, for the departing workers may feel the urge to begin non-jumping robot-dance routines to celebrate the helicopters arrival, much to the chagrin of the HLO. Ever wary of this the HDC stay close, ready to bundle on board any wayward workers who give in to temptation and prevent the euphoria before it spreads. Once inside the HDC check that they are all securely harnessed in, giving the pilots some food and drink, stow the bags, spare life jackets and refueling (where necessary). To the worrisome they may give a word of wisdom, to the arrogant a harsh look and to any fetching ladies a roguish grin!

They are not alone outside the helicopter, the worldly wise pilots often climb out of their seats to check on the helicopter themselves.
Where the HDC is quite grim and serious the pilots are quite quirky, imagining themselves as slightly distant 'Han Solo' types, except with a helicopter to fly instead of a millennium falcon. Once outside it their craft they to move about on the helideck to show they can strut their stuff as well as the HDC! Used to this the HDC turns a blind eye to their hallowed heli-deck being intruded upon, but only for so long. Some adventurous pilot-types may descend into the heli-admin area, often to clarify something important with the manifest, more often though to fully prove their 'Han Solo' pilot credentials to the impressionable oil workers. The pilot cannot tarry on the platform for long as the HLO with tolerate a rival on the platform for a brief encounter. With with fuel burning and his mind awash with dead-lines and schedules the pilot climbs back into the whirlling machine. If the pilots have acted within the correct protocols and without troubling the HLO in his brooding ways a brief smile may be given. If not, a stern signal to his watching underlings will have them disappear behind the helicopter to cause imaginary mischief and trouble to worry the pilots instead. Once the pilot has calmed himself, the HLO will give the signal for lift-off, swiftly followed by the 'V' sign for good measure. With that the helicopter lifts off and the Helideck duel is over!

The HLO and his merry men can now breath easy for another Heli-deck mission is complete, until the next helicopter arrives that is...

So the next time you see the brisk and purposeful way of the HLO and his private army passing you like a raging cyclone just remember, its hardcore on the helideck!

History | Big Picture | Oil Production Zones
The Future of Oil

Copyright Diving Lore Site Map Link Terms Of Use