AN engineering specialist has spoken out with his concerns about low flying helicopters in the Fylde area.
Following the tragic events in central London last week, when a helicopter collided with a crane near Vauxhall causing the death of two men, St Annes resident Robert Fielding has made his views clear on the issue.
Mr Fielding, 69, of Clarendon Road, a member of Blackpool Airport’s Joint Consultative Committee said: “In the light of the tragic fatal helicopter accident over London, I hope the airport will look to restrict helicopter flying over the residential areas of St Annes and Blackpool to strictly urgent flights only.
“I am continuing to monitor these flights and have been concerned about a red helicopter approaching the airport at low level roughly over St Anne’s Road East, before turning to approach the airport in line with the runway.
“I could understand the reason for this if it was a fixed wing aircraft, but surely there is no need for a helicopter to take this route when flying in from the sea when a safer and more direct route would have been over the old Pontin’s site.”
Mr Fielding, who studied mechanical engineering at Liverpool University, added: “I have noted helicopter flight patterns for the last 12 months or so in the Fylde area.
“A helicopter is far more dangerous than a fixed wing aircraft.
“They are s a single shaft form of transport. It has what is called a Jesus pin – because if it fails, that is the next person you’re likely to see.
“If a plane engine fails, it can glide to a degree, but with a helicopter, there is little or no control. The results could be catastrophic in a residential area.”
A spokeswoman for Blackpool Airport moved to answer Mr Fielding’s concerns.
She said: “The ‘red’ helicopters to which Mr Fielding is referring are the Bond Offshore helicopters. Bond has a terminal at the airport and operates seven days a week servicing the rigs and wind farms out in the Irish Sea.
“All aircraft fly subject to the legislation of the Air Navigation Order and the Rules of the Air Regulations. There are low flying prohibitions, normally a 500ft rule, but of course the exemption is during landing and taking off in accordance with normal aviation practice.
“Bond Offshore helicopters meet all CAA requirements and the flight path is determined by other traffic in proximity and the wind direction.
“Obviously if they are on approach to land or just taking off they will be at a low level but nothing that would be considered dangerous or does not met the rules of the air – it can be extremely difficult even for a trained observer, to estimate heights and distances from the ground.
“We can only apologise for the disturbance residents will incur. Living in such close proximity to a commercial airport they will but we do of course do everything possible to keep it to an absolute minimum.”