Flying 10 years offshore, I had never imagined that I would be flying to get workers for health reasons, as it has been happening today with the pandemic.
Since March 2020 when the coronavirus settled down in Brazil, our scheduled flights have gone through some changes to continue happening and moving in the oil and gas industry.
I do about an average of 2 daily flights to maritime units at 150 Nautical Miles off the Brazilian coast on the SK92 helicopter. Each flight lasts 3 hours in total; carrying up to 18 passengers on one trip and 18 passengers on the way back.
In addition to these scheduled flights, sanitary flights began. These are carried out to rescue people who had contact with the infected, suspected of having the virus and confirmed with COVID-19. On these sanitary flights, the aircraft is exclusive for this reason - going only to the crew without any passengers on board. Rescued passengers are transported in a reduced number of the total limit of the model of this aircraft (SK92), which is 18; this reduction is to 6 passengers when they are confirmed with the virus. When they are only suspected because they present some symptoms, the reduction is to 9 passengers being allocated to specific locations on the aircraft. To carry out these flights, special preparation is necessary for the safety of the complete crew (2 pilots and 1 flight attendant). It is mandatory to use a complete PPE kit approved by the World Health Organization to protect clothes and skin from any contamination in the aircraft. The kit contains 1 hooded overall, latex gloves, protective goggles and shoe protection. After each of the sanitary flights, the aircraft is unavailable until it is taken to the hangar and goes through a thorough disinfection.
Nowadays, these special flights are still becoming increasingly frequent, as the number of cases in Brazil has increased. The initiative of oil and gas companies from the beginning has been to quarantine employees in hotels before their regular shipment and rapid tests, but even with these preventive measures, many cases still occur in maritime units. There has even been some chaos during this period in which we needed to carry out several health flights for days in a row to the same maritime unit. That unit had many cases of infected people and we had to empty the maritime unit and control the epidemic outbreak that had set in.
I could never have imagined that I'd be flying in complete PPE to be protected from a virus that is plaguing everyone. At the same time, it is a very important period worldwide because it is a public health issue, knowing that we are helping those who often need to have special medical care and who rely on our work and dedication to be rescued. I'm sure I will always remember these flights for a long time because of the importance they have in this current scenario.