Paul Derby

With industry analysts predicting a surge of growth for the helicopter fractional ownership market, manufacturers and operators have a tricky problem to grapple with - where exactly do they take off and land?

The issue of infrastructure is one that has been perplexing not just potential fractional operators but the entire rotary-wing community for some time. Helipad numbers have been dwindling in recent years and the loss of key heliports in major conurbations such as New York City poses a threat to the expansion of helicopter operations in the world's major centres of business.

New York's East 60th Street heliport has been closed, leaving the city with just three, while Boston is also threatened with the loss of a site later this year.


So as Sikorsky becomes the first manufacturer to commit itself wholeheartedly to winning fractional business, one of the industry's key challenges is to convince decision-makers that infrastructure investment is vital.

"That's a big, big issue and one that has to be addressed," says Mike Moran, Sikorsky's director of commercial programme marketing. "The key benefit that the rotary-wing community brings to our customers is the ability to take them door-to-door. If we are restricted simply to operating from airports, most of those benefits are wiped out."

The voice of communities in which the aircraft operate is also a problem. Residents are often vocal and determined in their opposition to helicopter operations being established on their doorsteps. They cite noise issues and environmental concerns, which the industry is fighting hard to address. The US Congress approved a law last year requiring the US Federal Aviation Administration to work with the National Park Service to develop airspace management plans for parks.

But the legislation stopped short of banning the construction of commercial airports close to national park boundaries.

Source: Flight Daily News