“Any changes or reductions from a review would be very damaging to the helicopter charter industry, which depends on flying customers into London. We are only just getting over the impact of the economic downturn of 2008, and more recently the Olympics, which forced a reduction in helicopter operations into London. It would also send a very sad message to the business community and rest of the world,” adds Hampton.
Helicopter operations over London are among the most tightly controlled in Europe and the world. Busy airspace over the city means helicopters are required to use heli-lanes that follow the River Thames. There are limits imposed on capacity, timing and routes, while local authorities routinely hold statutory consultative committee meetings to air any specific concerns. Single-engine helicopters face restrictions and can operate only a short distance away from the river as a precaution against engine failure. Twin-engine types have greater freedom of operation, and so are used by the Metropolitan Police and London's Air Ambulance. But even these vital services are criticized for their noise levels. The Metropolitan Police Air Support Unit has a Twitter account to justify the noise it makes to upset Londoners.
Politicians have tried to regulate the use of helicopters over the city in the past. In 1991, a parliamentary bill was tabled to create greater planning controls on heliports, to restrict noise levels and control the use of helicopters. Back then the concern was the increase in ad-hoc landing sites appearing across the city, while planning committees in different parts of London were investigating the potential for more heliport locations, such was the demand for helicopters.
The bill was unsuccessful, but so too was the plan to build more heliports, leaving Battersea Heliport, now known as the London Heliport, to deal with the inbound helicopter traffic alone. U.K. operators and those in other major cities anxiously await any review of regulations.