Copterline to return to the skies
- By Adam Krowka
TAKING OFF: Copterline's operations had been stuck on the ground since 2006, but new owners are reviving the Tallinn-Helsinki service.
TALLINN - Good news has come for high-flying business executives regularly crossing the Gulf of Finland: Copterline, the Finnish-owned helicopter transit firm that once provided a fast air link between Tallinn and Helsinki, has announced that it will soon resume the service.
Copterline Estonia's Execu-tive Director Tonis Lepp told Reporter.ee that regular flights between Tallinn and Helsinki will start in less than two months.
Service between the two capitals was halted in July 2006, nearly a year after a crash of one of the helicopters claimed the lives of 12 passengers and two crew members.
A more expensive and, according to Lepp, safer model of helicopter will be in use: the 15-seat Augusta AW139. Two orders have been placed and the first recently arrived in Estonia. The price of these aircraft, which are produced in Italy, stands at over 100 million kroons (6.4 million euros).
Much-needed renovation has also taken place at the Tallinn Linnahall landing platform and terminal. This work has been mirrored across the gulf with a new Helsinki Hernesaar terminal already in place and ready for traffic.
"A completely new terminal has been prepared in Helsinki; in Tallinn we are heading for the same thing," said Lepp to Delfi.
A 66 percent majority stake in the company was sold to a Finnish group of investors led by Ilkka Herlin and Ilmarinen Pension Insurance Co. Ltd. in May 2007. The move provided much capital needed to reface and restart the Copterline operations.
"We believe that we will become even more successful by means of improving our level of customer service, the new helicopters and modern terminals," said Ilmarise director Esko Torsti in a statement on the Copterline Web site.
In September 2007 Lepp first announced the company's plans to resume flights this year. At the time he told The Baltic Times that ticket prices would be similar to those charged before the hiatus, and will be "differentiated according to the time of departure."
The August 2005 crash occurred three minutes into the Tallinn-Helsinki journey and killed all 14 aboard. A government interim report concluded last Aug. 8 that flakes of plasma coating on a rotor piston caused blockage of fluids that led to the disaster.
A design flaw in the Sikorsky S-76 aircraft was to blame for the malfunction. Investigators found the coating to be a few millimeters too thick, leading to a major and unpredictable operational error.