London, UK-based helicopters could face tighter operating restrictions after the publication of a study by the city's parliament, the London Assembly, into the effect of rotary-wing noise in the capital. The report was commissioned in response to a marked increase in complaints from residents, who claim helicopter noise is blighting London's skies.

The investigation, led by the Assembly's environmental committee, estimates that over the past four years, the number of helicopter movements across the 32 London boroughs has increased by almost 20%, covering an area of 15,000km2 (5,800 miles2), and calls for a co-ordinated government response.

Committee chairman Darren Johnson says: "Londoners already have to contend with endless noise from planes damaging their quality of life and now helicopters are adding to the misery."

The report advocates the introduction of a charge for helicopters using London's air traffic services and better write-down incentives to encourage operators to replace older helicopters with newer, quieter models. Conditions could be imposed on the use of helicopters for advertising and the media.

The investigation found available data is unreliable because the UK Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority do not consistently collect or keep information on helicopter movements over London. The report recommends this data is recorded and published regularly so changes can be monitored effectively.

The report has received a mixed response from the helicopter industry, which argues that police and military, rather than commercial, helicopters are responsible for the increase in movements. "All helicopter operators are being tarred with the same brush," says Brian Humphries, chairman of the British Helicopter Advisory Board trade body. He stresses that police and military helicopter movements have risen in response to the increased threat of terrorism.

Humphries says the industry welcomes the introduction of a write-down allowance, preferably of about 25%, towards the purchase of new helicopters. "While helicopter noise is decreasing, we need to encourage more operators to introduce new and quieter types," he adds.

Source: Flight International