Air Transport World

Helicopter airlines seek non-airport landing sites in quest for success.

Prospects for the future of helicopters appeared unlimited after World War II when the helicopter first flew into the public's eye. But along the path to progress, something happened to those prospects. Though still eyed with fascination, helicopter use has yet to spread to the common man. Few sit in garages awaiting the owner's daily flight to work. The chopper just never caught on the way fixed-wing craft did.

Outside of exploiting its obvious utility for corporate and military use, turning those same flight characteristics toward airline use remains a minor application.

Not that people haven't tried their hand at running a helicopter airline. They have and continue to try.

Considering the small number of operators, the helicopter airline turnover is huge. Of 10 which appeared in the Winter 1983-84 edition of World Aviation Directory, four stopped helicopter operations and/or went out of business.

What is the problem? Actually, there are many problems including initial costs, operating costs, maintenance costs, limited capacity and speed. Plus one major social problem--airport neighbors just don't like helicopters.

Gordon J. Myers can tell you about that. His LA Skycab spent three years just to get permission to develop non-airport landing sites. And LA Skycab isn't flying still.

A long process

Myers said that establishing landing sites is just as hard as finding venture capital. "Operating certificates, people, machines--they're the easy part."

Establishing a heliport is on a par with establishing a new airport, involving city, county, state and federal officials. To solve this problem Myers and LA Skycab went to Fred Wild and Associates, a Los Angeles firm specializing in helicopter site acquisition.

"The effort you can put into acquiring a site can take anywhere from a year, minimum, up to more than two years," Wild explained. …

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