America (still) rising, albeit slowly

 - July 24, 2007, 10:33 AM

Fledgling helicopter commuter airline America Rising has pushed back to 2006 the launch of its New York to Washington, D.C. rotorcraft shuttle service, blaming a lack of suitably de-ice-equipped helicopters and continued delay in gaining approval for the operation from the Transportation Security Administration.

Chairman Steve Walker said he is seeking TSA approval to operate from South Capitol Street heliport in Washington, D.C., as a scheduled carrier. However, the landing site has been closed to commercial traffic since 9/11. Walker said the scheduled operation, which was granted Department of Transportation (DOT) approval last year, meets all the requirements of the agency’s heliport security plan.

“We are not yet pressing our case hard, however, as we are still waiting for a suitable helicopter,” he said. The Fort Meade, Md.-based carrier has been talking to Sikorsky about the S-92, but Walker said “the first airline-quality helicopter with proper icing clearances will not be available until late 2005 or early 2006.”

Operations director Sanford Garner said the only way to make a success of such an operation is to use the very latest technology, including GPS-based approaches and departures, proprietary en route levels, automatic weather systems and de-icing. “Between November and March you have a 50-percent chance of actual icing somewhere along the route. If it is forecast at your en route altitude and you don’t have the systems, you’re not even clear to launch.”