Kate Sarsfield in London

London helicopters are under pressure to reduce their environmental impact following the launch of an investigation by the city’s mayor into the effect of rotary wing noise in the capital. The move comes in response to a marked increase in complaints from residents who argue that helicopter noise is blighting London’s skies.

Darren Johnson, a member of the local government, the London Assembly, is leading the investigation. He says: “Anecdotal evidence suggests that helicopter traffic has increased in London in recent years and may continue to do so. We need to determine how much this has increased and what, if anything, can be done to tackle it across the 32 boroughs, covering an area of 15,000km2 (5,800m2).”

The investigation will examine a number of factors including the routing of helicopters over London, the different types of machine and their noise performance. “We will also look at what is being done to address the increased helicopter traffic and noise, and whether any improvements can be made to the way traffic is managed,” says Johnson. The assembly is in the process of gathering evidence from different organisations and businesses and plans to publish its final recommendations by the end of the third quarter, Johnson says.

The helicopter industry has reacted with caution to the study. “We are very wary,” says Peter Norton, chief executive of the UK’s civil helicopter association, the British Helicopter Advisory Board (BHAB). “We could find ourselves exposed to environmentalists and get torn apart.”

BHAB members span manufacturers, commercial operators, police authorities, emergency services and heliport operators, as well as pilots and private individuals. Operating members follow a code of conduct, designed to minimise noise and enhance safety. These practices include flying as high as possible and avoiding populated areas.

“Manufacturers also recognise that noise is a major factor in the quest for public acceptance and are making good progress in this area,” Norton says. “New aircraft entering service today are significantly quieter than their predecessors.”

Battersea Heliport, the sole heliport in London, which handles up to 12,000 movements a year, declines to comment.

Source: Flight International