Runway congestion could be relieved by helicopter services operating into airport helipads, or by providing services directly to and from the passengers’ business areas. The Eurocopter EC 155 has a capacity of up to 13 passengers and range of up to 480nm.
Large helicopters such as the EH 101, shown here in a paramilitary role with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, could bring new levels of safety and reduced noise levels while alleviating pressure on runways.
Differential GPS, flight tested in an S-76, has demonstrated the ability of helicopters to operate safely in and around fixed wing air routes without interfering with the traffic. For a glimpse into the future, this artist’s concept shows an S-92 flying over Singapore.
One of the advantages of tilt rotor aircraft is their insensitivity to cross-winds. Therefore, they can operate alongside conventional fixed wing aircraft without tying up already congested corridors. Robert Ryan Wilkins of Boeing’s Advanced Rotorcraft Systems has suggested that tilt rotor aircraft could delay (if not delete) the need for additional runway construction, seeing the Dallas, Texas downtown vertiport (the first in the world) as the pattern for similar developments. He believes that if cities plan properly for future air services, we may someday see vertiports serving travellers close to city centres.
Helijet Airways’ S-76s carry far more passengers than those by scheduled floatplane services between the cities of Vancouver and Victoria. This is largely because of their ability to operate in IFR conditions. That said, the company had to overcome strong opposition from residents who complained about the helicopter's noise.
With Just two helicopters, British International operates up to 26 flights per day when required (the equivalent of three Boeing 747s) between Penzance and St Mary’s, Scilly Isles and because of the runway limitations at both ends of the service, the operator has proved that rotorcraft can certainly increase airport capacity.