Deepwater Affecting Gulf Helo Operators
President Obama’s 180-day moratorium on deepwater oil drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico is beginning to pinch helicopter operators there. The President imposed the moratorium following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig on April 20. Yesterday, Bristow Group announced that the moratorium is forcing its customers to release two Sikorsky S-92As and five S-76s that had been used to fly deepwater drilling support missions in the Gulf. The helicopters had been generating $3.8 million in monthly revenues. However, Bristow noted that spill-control flights operated on behalf of BP are largely offsetting this loss, in the short-term. Currently, Bristow is flying seven S-76s and two EC135s dedicated to these flights, which the company predicted would last “several months.” Separately, on Monday the FAA published a new “kneeboard TFR” for VFR helicopter operators flying in the Deepwater Horizon impact area, a vast tract that extends from off the coast of Central Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle. The TFR applies to all routine and oil-spill recovery helicopter traffic and fixed-wing aircraft. Routine helicopter traffic must remain at or above 1,500 feet until within two miles of a destination landing platform, squawk assigned Mode 3A codes and maintain radio contact. Fixed-wing traffic is not allowed below 1,000 feet in this area.