ONE of the areas where GAMTA and the BHAB – the British helicopter Advisory Board – may be able to work much closer together in future is flight training, said BHAB’s chairman, Lord Glenarthur, in the keynote speech at the conference.

He said the two organisations already worked together on a number of issues of common interest, even though the disparities between helicopters and fixed-wing operations (most, though not all, of GAMTA’s members who operated aircraft are fixed-wing operators) meant that they would probably never be able to work totally together on everything. “There are, however, a number of issues of common interest, such matters as regulatory affairs, the pronouncements of bodies that govern how civil aviation operates and flight training in which we should already ca and do speak with one voice and should seek to speak with an even stronger voice” he said.

The forthcoming EASA – European Aviation Safety Authority – was bound to bring changes to the regulations and it was up to bodies such as GAMTA, BHAB and the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) to guard against any that would be detrimental to the aviation industry in the UK. “ We are glad that the CAA will continue in being for a very long time to come.

We need all of us to remain clear of European dictate. We have a vibrant General Aviation community and we want it to remain that way,” he said. Lord Glenarthur said that helicopters would continue to play a vital role in civil aviation.

They could be used for activities that no other aircraft could cope with and, even though the operational costs are high, for some of the uses they are now put to the savings are so great that the high operational costs are more than offset. “For many tasks, one police helicopter can do the work of a number of police cars, equipped with better and more sophisticated equipment that can do the job better and more quickly. And you cannot put a price on the work of helicopter air ambulances,’ he said.

BHAB was working to gain changes in a number of areas – for example, in the use of single-turbine engined helicopters over built-up and ‘hazardous’ areas, which is banned in the UK and a number of European countries but which is commonplace in the USA. Modern helicopters were highly sophisticated and engine technology and reliability had come on so far that the regulators ought to be seriously looking at allowing single-turbine engined operations over places that they are currently banned from, he said. It was also against what he called the “over vigorous” influence of certain larger helicopter manufacturers to influence both the market and ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) but at the same time the BHAB was sure that the end has not been seen of various manufacturers merging to produce larger, but fewer, companies in the industry.

The 132-strong GAMTA organisation is going to be taking a very close look indeed at the new EASA (European Aviation Safety Authority) as it ‘flexes it muscles’ over the next year or two, said the chairman David Antrobus. EASA is being promoted by the European Common Market and will take over from the JAA (Joint Aviation Authorities) as the body that regulates civil aviation in Europe.

The big difference between the two will be that EASA will have legal powers from Day 1 whereas the JAA has none – it is up to each JAA member country (around 40 full or associate members at the last count) to implement its recommendations, bring them in with modifications or have nothing to do with them. Giving the introductory speech at GAMTA’s 24th annual conference, Mr Antrobus said that the UK’s own CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) would continue to work, even when EASA was in place. He said this was a good thing because, over the past two or three years, it has become clear that the CAA had changed and was much more in tune with the aviation industry’s needs. “We will have to expect changes when EASA arrives and start beginning to flex its muscles.

We must be aware of this and keep a close eye on it. We do not want to see negative regulations being introduced. We will support the industry and part of our message is that the industry should support us – if General Aviation organisations are not currently in membership of GAMTA then they should join us and help us grow stronger in what we do to defend and to promote the industry,” he said. “By supporting GAMTA, they will be supporting themselves.”