Europe lagging behind in exploiting potential of its helicopter sector

Europe is lagging behind in exploiting the potential of its helicopter sector, argues Jaime Arqué.

Jaime Arqué, Chair of the European Helicopter Association (EHA) | Photo credit: EHA

By Jaime Arqué

23 Jan 2017

When the European Commission created the European Aviation Safety Agency Europe's helicopter operators, represented by the European Helicopter Association (EHA), supported the decision. 

However, aviation isn't just about commercial airlines. When arguing for a European level playing field, the operation of aircraft, like helicopters, performing very diverse missions in a relatively short range environment with very different climate conditions, orography, and social contexts, cannot be regulated with the same criteria.

Therefore, we are in favour of harmonising European rules, providing this process isn't detrimental to the rotorcraft sector.


Do you know what civil helicopters are doing for the European Community? Could we maintain our level of welfare and wellness without them? Can we make a more intensive use of the helicopters unique capabilities? 

As the voice of the great majority of helicopter operators in Europe we, at the EHA, are concerned about the lack of interest from the Commission regarding the exploitation of helicopter operations and their integration into the intra-EU connectivity.

We perfectly understand that the 2015 Aviation Strategy for Europe is primarily concerned with the improvement of the aviation sector in the years to come, but the sole attention to commercial airline activity and a reference to the required legal framework for the use of drones, show that the rotorcraft industry has not been considered. 

Our sector employs more than 100,000 people and although this figure cannot be compared with that of the Commercial Airline sector, the impact is far wider than merely economic.

Helicopter operations have transformed many areas of our lives, while advances in technology, processes, and training have revolutionised their potential, permitting full integration of helicopter operations across the entire spectrum of aviation.

The economic development of a region is directly affected by its connectivity to external markets, and only a holistic approach to transport policy would maximise the effect. Any such approach would inevitably include recognition of the unique characteristics of rotorcraft, and the increasingly vital part they have to play in a fully integrated transport policy.

Indeed, current US modes of operations highlight the need for strong connectivity between rotorcraft and other means of transport in delivering passengers more efficiently to city centres and industrial areas.

Helicopters have already become essential elements in national and regional transport systems. Europe has lagged behind and needs to recover lost ground.

As helicopters have also been recognised by the SESAR Joint Undertaking as airspace users, we believe that the EU action plan resulting from the published strategy has to include support to R&D activities for helicopters as a fundamental means of transportation and include an infrastructure development plan integrated into the EU transport system.


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