Is the BHA President independent or not?

Is the BHA President independent or not? 12 Sep, 16, Source: HeliHub.com

The British Helicopter Association has very successfully promoted the use of helicopters in the United Kingdom for many years, from humble beginnings in Redhill led by the famous Eric Brown to a respected position it holds today with an office at Fairoaks Airport to the south-west of London. The British helicopter fleet numbers over 1200, and as in many parts of life – the Olympics and Paralympics included – the UK succeeds way beyond the expectation of a country of its size.

In leading the UK helicopter industry, the BHA has a fairly complex structure, led on a day-to-day basis by a Chief Executive, with the current incumbent Tim Fauchon taking up the post earlier this year from Peter Norton who had been in the role for over 11 years. There is then a Chairman, who acts as the Chief Executive’s reference point, giving strategic direction.

Above and beyond this is the President, a figurehead flag-waving position not involved on a day-to-day basis, but still a position of influence. Currently held by Lord Glenarthur – who flew helicopters on the North Sea between 1976 and 1982 – there has never been any doubt as to his support of the industry, and he has been seen as a very suitable person to be President, a position he assumed in 2004. As well as his past Chairmanship of BHAB (the earlier name of BHA), Lord Glenarthur was also Chairman of the European Helicopter Association between 1996 and 2003 and of the International Federation of Helicopter Associations on several occasions between 1997 and 2004 and was a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society from 1992 to 2011.

Recent research by HeliHub.com noted that Lord Glenarthur was appointed on 1st April 2015 (in his birth certificate name of Simon Mark Arthur) as a Director of British European Aviation Ltd, the parent company of UK operator Heli Air. While there is no evidence to suggest that there has been any undue influence exerted in his role as BHA President, the existence of the Directorship puts himself in a situation which we would have expected he would want to strenuously avoid. If a significant shareholder of Heli Air wanted to, Lord Glenarthur could potentially be asked to try and exert his influence within BHA or UK Government in a particular direction for Heli Air’s benefit, perhaps in a different direction to other BHA members.

In an attempt to understand how the organisations could be “at arms length” from each other, HeliHub.com approached both BHA and Heli Air Ltd separately for statements regarding Lord Glenarthur’s independence. The two organisations chose to collaborate and issue a single statement, which in the circumstances of the question raises an eyebrow.

The statement included “Although he is not a member of the BHA Council and has no vote in terms of BHA matters, his knowledge of the industry and his position in the House of Lords places him at the centre of debate and influence where necessary about core issues of legislation, and means that he is an important and respected resource“, which we consider factual and confirming his position of influence.

Additionally “Lord Glenarthur, as would be expected given his experience and position, has held and currently holds a number of directorships, including his current Non-Executive Chairmanship of British European Aviation Ltd. the parent company of Heli Air“.  Public data appears to show no other current helicopter-related Directorships than this one, and indeed a further nine expired Directorships in industries including healthcare and chemicals are all his his titled name “Lord Simon Mark Glenarthur” rather than “Simon Mark Arthur”.

In UK law (as outlined here on the UK Government website), a Director is a position of responsibility within a company – the text on that web page states you are “legally responsible for your company’s records, accounts and performance”, whether you are involved on a day-to-day basis or not. To be a Chairman does not require the person to be a Director, but Lord Glenarthur has knowingly become a Director – together with all the responsibilities that brings – of British European Aviation Ltd.

Here at HeliHub.com we do not take sides in debates like this, and we are merely pointing out the facts in order to facilitate discussion by others elsewhere.  Someone in the role of BHA President should be able to see that to gain the respect of all BHA members would automatically preclude him taking a role of responsibility with one member organisation, or he could potentially be seen as lowering his standards and be unable to completely fulfill either role to the expected level.  Maybe all other BHA members consider this fair?

Jeremy Parkin – HeliHub.com

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