Warnings of North Sea helicopter pilot shortage

 

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North Sea operators are struggling to find sufficient helicopter pilots. Picture: TSPL

by FRANK URQUHART

Published on the 09 February 2014 00:00

NORTH Sea helicopter operators are struggling to attract experienced pilots to operate crucial offshore flights.

The once steady stream of trained crew, drawn from former military personnel, has “all but dried up”, forcing operators to look for people willing to pay £100,000-plus to fund their own pilot training.

Flying helicopters in the North Sea remains an “aspiration career”, according to Captain Colin Milne, chairman of the helicopter affairs committee of the British Airline Pilots’ Association, but unless fresh recruits can be found the industry will face a shortage of skilled pilots.

“The Central and Northern North Sea, operating out of Aberdeen and Shetland, is the helicopter equivalent of long-haul Boeing 747 flights for fixed-wing pilots. It is highly demanding and we need people of the top calibre,” he told Scotland on Sunday. “But I’d say we have mopped up everybody at all suitable for that very top layer of the industry. Where are the next lot of pilots going to come from?”

Significant new investment in the North Sea is expected to increase the pressure on operators to have a healthy supply of qualified pilots. Milne said the industry should be braced for a “huge ramp-up” of demand for their services.

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