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COVID-19 – British helicopter industry steps up – but still needs more help

23 Mar, 20, Source: The British Helicopter Association (BHA) is flagging up to the UK Government that there are plenty of helicopters available to transport both people and freight in the current time of need while the country battles Coronavirus (COVID-19). BHA sees urgent requirements from both Government and National Health Service (NHS) users.

A number of operators including Starspeed, A2B Aviation, Arena Aviation, Capital Air Services and Helicentre Aviation have all stepped forward to make helicopters available for this work – purely on the basis of covering their costs and without any profit element at all. Some corporate operators and private owners have also made their aircraft available to anyone with the appropriate type rating.

BHA CEO Tim Fauchon has been working with the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the Department for Transport (DfT) and EASA as well. He sees the scheme working along similar lines to the “Ships Taken Up From Trade” (STUFT) program has been shown to successfully supplement Royal Navy ships with merchant ships in the past. For example the Falklands War of 1982 saw the cruise liner Canberra became a troop carrier, and the container ship Atlantic Conveyor acting as a VTOL port for both helicopters and BAe Sea Harriers.

The licencing department of the CAA has responded with some exemptions to delay licence renewals, check flights etc.  Their statement says “For a period of three months, from 16 March 2020 to 16 June 2020, the CAA will waive any fees normally incurred for cancellation and/or transfer to a future CAA examination sitting”.  See the Exams section of this page for further information.

It appears that the CAA airworthiness department is a little slower to respond. BHA would like to see CAA approval for helicopters being used for national resilience work so they can be flown 10-15% beyond certified overhaul limits, which they believe could be needed once the UK military is at full stretch.

The BHA also suggests that the CAA brings in a charges holiday and not just delay their annual price rise by 3 months, at a time when the industry is facing such a significant lack of work.

The BHA will also call on the UK Ministry of Defence to make Jet-A1 fuel available to civil operators on national resilience work in the coming weeks, should the a number of available civilian airports reduce as they get temporarily closed by circumstances.

British helicopter owners and operators (whether or not they are members) are encouraged to call BHA on +44 (0)1276 856100 or email with their offers of help, so that these the combined effort is given an industry-wide focus.

Jeremy Parkin –