Forced move threatens chinese helicopter operator

 - May 6, 2008, 11:15 AM

Hong Kong helicopter operator Heliservices is getting mixed signals from local authorities, ones it claims affect its ability to stay in business. Heliservices has been providing direct helicopter air-taxi services between Chek Lap Kok Airport and a pair of waterfront sites on Hong Kong proper for several years. Now the helo operator has received word that the airport authority plans to close down one of the airport’s two heliports, effective September 30.

The authority wants to move rotorcraft traffic to the Hong Kong Business Aviation Center (HKBAC) at the far end of Chek Lap Kok; operations are set to start there at the beginning of next month. Heliservices is upset about the move, first because it would cost the operator an additional $217 in landing and operations fees per turnaround. As is, the round-trip cost of a seven-minute Eurocopter AS 355 flight between Chek Lap Kok and the Peninsula hotel’s rooftop helipad at Tsim Sha Tsui is $833. The HKBAC landing site is a 10-min drive from the main terminal at Chek Lap Kok, while the older heliport site is a two-minute drive. The airport’s move comes as something of a surprise to Heliservices, which had enjoyed a 77-percent cut in landing fees just two years ago.