The French town of Cannes faces the closure of one of its licensed heliports in March next year if local authorities do not reach a decision on an alternate site. Cannes Mandelieu airport, largely used by business aircraft, is completing an upgrade to its runways that has been coupled with an agreement to reduce traffic.

A large part of the airport's 115Ha (284 acre) area is protected by environmental impact agreements, and residents' groups are threatening to block permission to move the existing helipad when the runways are upgraded to include a stop-pad north of the main runway, to avoid fixed-wing aircraft approaching over the densely populated valleys nearby. The airport handles 10,000 helicopter movements a year. René Koehl, airlines representative manager at Nice Côte d'Azur airport, says the heliport is a vital link for business and leisure travellers.

Helicopter operators along the Côte d'Azur, Europe's most developed charter helicopter market, fear an alternative site will not be found and agreed in time for a planning permission deadline of November. Noise pollution tests are being carried out at the airport at the moment, which operators hope will prove helicopters to be no louder than business jets. Cannes has an additional licensed heliport close to the beach, where traffic would be diverted.

Cannes follows other French Riviera towns in heliport closure. "Over the past 15 years we've lost 12 landing sites between Menton and Toulon for various reasons," says Annie-Claire Benchimol, president of operator Nice Hélicoptères.

Source: Flight International