UK CAA launches consultation on vertiport operations at existing aerodromes

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has launched a consultation on proposals for existing aerodromes that wish to accommodate VTOL aircraft. We anticipate that the initial eVTOL flights will take place from existing infrastructure, hence this consultation only applies to existing aerodromes and not bespoke vertiports.

These proposals apply to all land-based aerodromes that wish to incorporate an area or “vertiport” for commercial VTOL aircraft operations. This design proposal is for VTOL aircraft in day and night Visual Flight Rule (VFR) operations; it does not cater for Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) and operations under Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC).

The CAA defines a vertiport as a type of aerodrome or operating site that is used or intended to be used for the arrival, departure, and surface movement of VTOL aircraft.

The CAA are consulting on aerodrome design where vertiports or areas for VTOL aircraft operations differ from that of traditional aerodromes. Comments from this consultation will inform our final design proposals that will form the requirements to supplement:

The CAA does not have enough validated VTOL aircraft performance and design data and therefore the provisions in this document are subject to change as that relevant information becomes available.  Vertiport guidance is expected to evolve into a performance-based design standard, which may require increased or decreased dimensions to those in this document.

The design proposals set out in this consultation will also form the initial basis of bespoke vertiport design, the further detail of which will be established once the VTOL aircraft manufacturers and operators provide further data.

The factors on which we are consulting will place additional requirements on existing aerodromes should they want to establish VTOL aircraft operations. This includes the physical characteristics of the operating environment such as the design of operating areas, obstacle limitation surfaces and visual aids, as well as rescue and firefighting services. One fundamental licensing criterion requires the licence holder to establish and maintain an appropriate Safety Management System (SMS). This will remain the same as for all licensed aerodromes.

The CAA is in parallel considering the circumstances in which unlicensed aerodromes that are looking to establish commercial VTOL aircraft operations, or a vertiport, may be required to obtain a licence. We will continue to engage with stakeholders on our initial proposals and carry out a separate consultation process in due course.

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) documentation does not currently support the novel inclusion of VTOL aircraft operations at an existing aerodrome. Where required, ICAO Annex 14 Vols I and II, as well as Document 9261: The Heliport Manual, have been consulted. The specifications provided for in this chapter are based on the principles of heliport and helicopter design, and on statistical analysis of the population of helicopters as described in Appendix A to Chapter 3 of the Heliport Manual. A review of the design specifications will be required for vertiport regulations once information from VTOL aircraft manufacturers has been made available.

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For more information visit:

www.caa.co.uk

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