11-Aug-2011 Source: HeliHub.com
Finnish operator Copterline looks to be ready to restart operations once again, in particular reopening the scheduled route between the capitals of Finland and Estonia, Helsinki and Tallin, potentially as early as next week.
This will be the third time that flights between the two cities are being commenced. Originally in 2000, Copterline flew two S76C+ aircraft, with annual passenger numbers peaking at 75,000.Â However, an accident in August 2005 which claimed the lives of all 14 passengers and crew on board led to the route being closed immediately.Â Using two AgustaWestland AW139s, Copterline restarted in April 2008, but bookings ran at 50% of the break-even load factors and flights were discontinued eight months later and press reports in February 2010 stated that the company had filed for insolvency.Â Those two helicopters were initially sold to PHi in the US, but were never apparently put to work in the Gulf of Mexico as expected and were sold on to Agusta Aerospace, the US arm of the Anglo-Italian manufacturer.
A new “Copterline” then appeared under the ownership of Line Support OY in Finland, who last month registered one of the same two AW139s back on the Finnish register, amid local reports in the Suomen Kuvalehti newsppaer confirming their intention to restart the Tallin route.Â Kari Ljungberg, CEO of Line Support, says that the necessary licenses, including a building permit for the Hernesaari heliport in Helsinki, have been cleared for flights to resume.Â The heliport’s planning approval is valid until 31st December 2014, and may not be renewed given plans for residential housing in that area from 2015.
This emergence of Copterline is different, with the company now based in Estonia and known as Copterline OU using local company abbreviations.Â HeliHub.com confirms they have a postal box address in Tallinn and local phone/fax numbers there.Â This may corroborate the April 2011 reports that Estonian national carrier Estonian Air intended to acquire a stake in Copterline from Line Support, with a view to underpinning the finances of the scheduled service.Â It is unclear whether or not this deal was concluded, but it certainly seems feasible in the light of the latest information.
In June 2011, Finnish airline Blue1 (part of the SAS group) closed their route between Helsinki and Tallin airports after just eight months, citing a wish to focus on servicing inland routes as the main reason for stopping flights to international destinations, with Berlin, Munich, Paris and Amsterdam following in line after Tallinn.Â Whether that had any bearing on getting the helicopter option restarted is unknown.
Jeremy Parkin – HeliHub.com