Eurocontrol warns against maritime ‘skysails’

 - October 30, 2009, 6:45 AM

Eurocontrol is warning helicopter operators, especially offshore oil operators, of a potential threat posed by “skysails,” giant kites that help propel some large ships such as oil tankers and container carriers. On September 15 a helicopter was descending over the southern North Sea to a nearby oil or gas platform when the crew saw such a skysail. It was flying ahead of a vessel, at around 1,000 feet, just below the clouds. The aircraft had to alter its flight path to avoid a collision. Eurocontrol on September 17 reported that the kite was extended on a long cable and was moving “in an erratic manner.”

Such devices are still experimental but could be used more in the near future. The air traffic management organization is therefore recommending that aviation authorities “review their kite flying rules.” It is also asking aviation professionals to “share their experience about the issue.” Coordination with maritime authorities, however, does not seem to be on the agenda.