UK experts review safety ahead of Maldives commercial helicopter relaunch

Experts from the UK have completed a comprehensive assessment, ahead of a planned resumption of commercial helicopter operations in the Maldives.

Maldives civil aviation authority tasked the UK Civil Aviation Authority (UK CAA) in June to provide an in-depth review of the authority’s helicopter regulatory oversight capability.

An official from the Maldives civil aviation authority told local media on Monday that the review was conducted from August 6-11. Findings of the assessment would be received in a month, he added.

The project, led by UK CAA flight operations specialists, includes a full helicopter operations risk assessment. The UK CAA experts have been tasked to support the authority in establishing the intentions of the operations and recommend how these operations can be achieved safely, while conducting an offshore helideck review in order to provide a complete “risk picture” of future helicopter operations in the Maldives.

Maldives ceased commercial helicopter operations over a decade ago after a series of fatal accidents. Only the armed forces now operate helicopters on special operations such as search and rescue missions, and medical evacuations.

Government, however, announced in December that regulations were being amended to license commercial helicopter operators again, more than 15 years after the island nation ceased using helicopters for commercial flights.

The new helicopter operations could provide a significant boost for the tourism industry and provide transportation links to several new island resorts.

Over a million tourists from across the globe visit the Indian Ocean island nation every year to holiday in one of the 120 resorts and 300 plus guesthouses located in all corners of the country. The multi-billion dollar tourism industry, which is the country’s main economic activity, relies heavily on the domestic transport infrastructure, especially air travel.

Maldives, the most dispersed country on the planet with 1,192 islands spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometres, already has 11 airports, including three international airports. The government has contracted both local and international companies to develop additional domestic airports across the archipelago in a bid to boost tourism.

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