Several critical conditions occurred during a Nato exercise in March 2002. One involved two Italian Air Force fighters and a helicopter from CHC Helikopter Service.
«We were warned by TRH ATC [Trondheim Flygeledertjeneste] about approaching fighters. One of them were sighted just prior to crossing just below us.”
The military air controllers had failed to tell the fighters that the helicopter was in their way. One crossed 457 metres below the Super Puma and just 50 metres to its rear.
This jet was travelling at a speed of 780 kilometres per hour. The weather was overcast. In his report, the helicopter pilot reported:
We were warned by TRH ATC [Trondheim Air Traffic Control] about approaching fighters. One of them was sighted just prior to crossing immediately below us.
This incident occurred during the 2002 Strong Resolve exercise staged every four years by Nato, and was investigated by the Accident Investigation Board Norway (SHT). The latter concluded that a genuine collision risk had existed. Although the exercise directive and procedures had been both extensive and detailed, it transpired that abiding by the complex regulations was not easy in a hectic exercise. The Italian pilots had lacked an overview at all times of their position in relation to offshore platforms and civil helicopters. This prompted the SHT to comment:
All experience shows that, when safety barriers depend on procedures and communication between many players, often under hectic and fairly complicated conditions, misunderstandings are very likely to arise or other human errors to occur.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Accident Investigation Board Norway (2003). Report 54/2003, published 29 September. Downloaded from https://www.aibn.no/Luftfart/Rapporter/2003-54?ref=1713.
A second incident occurred only 11 minutes later, when the same two fighters came close to another Super Puma from Helikopter Service en route from Njord field to Kristiansund.
The helicopter crew was warned by the civil air traffic control centre in Trondheim that two fighters were approaching. Immediately afterwards, they saw one pass right beneath them – on exactly the same course, but 396 metres lower.
Three days later, on 11 March, a Super Puma from Helikopter Service took off from Draugen en route to Kristiansund. The vessel manager was notified that two Norwegian F-16 fighters were to intercept two Russian aircraft.
Immediately afterwards, the helicopter pilot was advised to return to Draugen because of the collision risk posed by an unknown aircraft in the clouds. The machine’s anticollision alarm activated, and indicated that an aircraft was in front and 152 metres lower. This proved to be an unreported Sea Hawk helicopter.
It passed Draugen about two nautical miles away at a height of 200 feet. The helicopter protection zone (HPZ) around the platform had a radius of five nautical miles and a ceiling of 2 000 feet.
[REMOVE]Fotnote: Accident Investigation Board Norway (2003). Report 54/2003, published 29 September. Downloaded from https://www.aibn.no/Luftfart/Rapporter/2003-54?ref=1713.