COVID-19 – British helicopter industry steps up – but still needs more help
23 Mar, 20, Source: HeliHub.comThe 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)7941 384966 or email email@example.com with their offers of help, so that these the combined effort is given an industry-wide focus.
This is a quick update on what the BHA has been doing in the past 2 weeks to support the helicopter industry during this time of crisis – both financially and medically.
The BHA Management has already been in touch with Parliamentarians and Government to emphasise that the industry has a crucial role to play in national support to the Infrastructure and resilience. As other means of transport close down and the military become overstretched it will be the civilian operators who may be called upon to provide short notice passenger and freight transport. This may take the form of ‘Ships taken up from Trade’ planning which takes place during major conflicts. This means that the helicopter companies could need financial and material support to do this important task. Already the BHA has two companies who have indicated they are willing to take part.
We have also been working closely with the UK CAA who have been very forward leaning by getting exemptions in place to routine training and checking, however, no one person can think of every contingency which is where we rely on you, the BHA membership, to bring to our attention anything that needs action. We are also very closely engaged with the EHA and EASA who are working hard, but the UK CAA appears to be delivering national solutions before them. I stress that your Flight Ops Inspector is the first port of call for issues; the majority of them are now working from home so are contactable on mobiles or through emails.
As we all attempt to mitigate the broadest impact of COVID 19, the BHA management team continues to participate in regular conference calls with the CAA, DfT, EASA and EHA. The OEMs have already published safety or information bulletins giving guidance on how to clean/decontaminate aircraft however, most of the cleaning products are already in short supply as stocks are reserved for the health authorities around Europe. The BHA are introducing a dedicated drop-down field on our website giving access to advice and publications relating to COVID 19. We will of course seek to prioritise the important ones, but we note that advice and guidance is often in conflict or does not reflect with the Government’s latest advice, which is continually being updated. Please send me anything you judge may be useful to the wider community and I will look to make it available online.
I am available on my mobile 07941384966 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Office will be manned every day, until any future Government direction or health issues entails its closure. We are already set up to work from home and will continue to support the industry.
Lastly, I extend my best wishes to you, your business colleagues and your families at this difficult time; I hope you all stay healthy.
Please find documents below that may be of interest. We will add/update as if anything new if received.
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