Relaxing UK restrictions on helo singles could ‘degrade overall safety standards’

 - January 21, 2008, 10:41 AM

Lobbying by U.S. helicopter manufacturers to have ICAO regulations amended to allow greater use of single-engine models over developed areas could “degrade overall safety standards,” according to Lord Glenarthur, chairman of the British Helicopter Advisory Board. Speaking at last month’s conference of the UK’s General Aviation Manufacturers and Traders Association (GAMTA), Lord Glenarthur said that “one or two U.S. manufacturers” are pressing for ICAO to adopt a more permissive “FAA-style approach” to single-engine operations. He declined to name the airframers concerned but logically they must be makers of single-engine rotorcraft.

The BHAB leader said he does not expect UK authorities ever to accept single-engine helicopter operations over urban areas. He warned against what he characterized as “overassertiveness” on the part of U.S. manufacturers seeking to change and “weaken” operating standards. Lord Glenarthur argued that it would be “very difficult to get the data” needed to prove that single-engine operations over built-up areas are sufficiently safe.

Commenting on the new European Aviation Safety Agency, Lord Glenarthur said that it is vital to ensure that its new ECAR (European Civil Aviation Requirements) operating rules for helicopters are “practicable” because of the exemptions available under the existing JAA rules. EASA is in the process of converting the JAA’s Joint Aviation Requirements into ECARs, which will carry the force of European Union law.

Lord Glenarthur also told GAMTA delegates that the creation of EASA could make it necessary for European aviation lobbying groups to be restructured to be more effective. “There could even be a case for government funding to support proper representation in the rulemaking process because it could prove to be too expensive for the industry,” he concluded.