21 FEBRUARY 2011
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A report in The Sunday Times suggests that a new London heliport is under serious consideration using the redundant HMS Ark Royal as the platform.
Due to be paid off shortly Ark Royal, moored somewhere east of Tower Bridge, could provide for a landing operation, accommodation and also as a memorial to Britain’s aircraft carrier fleet and in particular the role they played in the Falklands War.
Air traffic control should prove to be no problem as the Thames effectively provides for the H4 helicopter route, the actual positioning of the ship more critical, quick access to Canary Wharf and other prime locations essential. London City Airport, from which helicopters are banned under the original planning authorisation, could play a role in the operation. HMS Belfast has proved that keeping elderly ships is very expensive but a combination of commercial activities and voluntary support should make it work financially.
London’s only other effective heliport, Battersea (owners Von Essen Hotels also the operator of PremiAir) would probably welcome another landing area on the other side of town. Ark Royal has two sister ships, Invincible due to be scrapped at the end of March, and Illustrious, which will continue as a command vessel until 2014. www.royalnavy.mod.uk
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