New UK Helicopter Rules Could Hurt Struggling Industry
British Helicopter Association CEO Peter Norton has urged UK authorities to abandon plans for new restrictions on rotorcraft operations over urban areas following the January 16 accident in which an AgustaWestland A109 Power crashed in central London. The crash prompted British Prime Minister David Cameron to order a review of helicopter operating rules, and an Air Accidents Investigation Branch inquiry is in progress.
Norton told attendees at the Rotary Operations Conference in London yesterday that the accident “severely damaged” the reputation of the industry, which now needs to restore public confidence. But he insisted that proposed new restrictions on VFR operations are not necessary and could have a damaging effect on an industry that has been hit hard by the UK’s recession in recent years.
“We need to examine our operational and managerial conduct to convince the authorities that we are safe,” he said. On this note, Norton is pushing for more helicopter operators to register for the International Standards for Business Aircraft Operations standards.
Acknowledging that pilots can easily find themselves under financial pressure to proceed with a flight in challenging conditions, Norton said that there is anecdotal evidence of over-confidence among some flight crew. “It is now time to review ad hoc charter operations to ensure safety without additional regulation because over-regulation might result in an increase in illegal public-transport operations.”