By Keith Wallis
East Asia Airlines is confident it will start direct helicopter services between Hong Kong, Macau and Shenzhen after the plans were approved by civil aviation regulatory bodies.
Andrew Tse, East Asia Airlines managing director, told iBusiness yesterday: “We are waiting for final approval from Beijing and an endorsement from the military. Most of the groundwork has been done.”
Mr Tse would not speculate when the green light could be given but said services could start within days of the official approval.
Earlier this summer, Mr Tse signed a protocol with representatives from civil aviation authorities in Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland, together with the air wing of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), for commercial scheduled helicopter services. These initially link the ferry terminals at Hong Kong and Macau and Shenzhen airport. The backing of the PLA is necessary because they control the airspace below 600 metres.
Mr Tse confirmed yesterday that flights to Shenzhen would be the first step in the development of scheduled helicopter services to other services in the Pearl River delta. “We have to start somewhere,” he said.
Mr Tse was speaking after signing a five-year pilot training agreement with Becker helicopters in Queensland, Australia. Becker Helicopters won the deal after beating bids from seven other operators including firms from the United States and Canada.
Initially, four cadets, two from Hong Kong and two from Macau, will undergo an eight-month training programme starting in November. Once qualified they will act as co-pilots on Sikorsky S-76 helicopters operating between Hong Kong and Macau.
They will be followed by a further four cadets who have already been identified for the next round of training. The cadets were chosen after an extensive series of tests, some of which were carried out at Cathy Pacific Airways (0293) training facilities.
Mr Tse said two mainland helicopter pilots are working on secondment from Zhuhai Helicopters, a subsidiary of China Southern Airlines, as co-pilots on East Asia Airlines services. He said additional flying staff were necessary to cope with expansion into the mainland.
Talking to iBusiness earlier this year, Mr Tse said he hoped to operate non-stop services between Chek Lap Kok and Shenzhen airports.
“I do see a market for direct flights between Chek Lap Kok and Shenzhen airports,” Mr tse said, adding that passengers and baggage would transit through Chek Lap Kok without the need for immigration or customs checks. He believed the service would appeal to business people from Taiwan with factories in Guangdong.
“Eighty per cent of Macau airport’s passenger traffic comes from Taiwan. We believe Hong Kong-Shenzhen is a big market, bigger than Hong Kong-Macau,” he said.
East Asia Airlines is planning to operate larger 20-seat helicopters if the new Shenzhen services are successful, with fares set at $800 to $900 for a 15-minute flight between Hong Kong and Shenzhen.
We acknowledge Hong Kong iMail for the article published in 2001.Share