A comparative analysis between helicopter and seaplane for passenger transport.

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Purpose – This study aims to develop a methodology to compare the feasibility of helicopter and seaplane regular transport of passengers towardsdestinations across a remote regional tourist context, where a lack of road and rail infrastructure make these alternative forms of air transportcompetitive.Design/methodology/approach – The authors use a modal split model identifying the quota of passengers that potentially could utilize these twotypes of services, determined on the basis of previous studies on air transport demand. A technical analysis regarding transport supply is performedto identify the predominant features that should characterize helicopter/seaplane performances. An optimization model is applied to identify theroutes that could overcome the breakeven point considering each of the two means of transport. The paper also takes into account the importanceof each type of service and its influence on flight infrastructure costs.Findings – Helicopter and seaplane services could improve the access for tourists with high values of time. The helicopter transport could capturea market share ranging from 5 to 20 per cent of tourist travel demand (the amphibian seaplane from 1 to 14 per cent). The shuttle services couldbe profitable especially for those regional origin– destination pairs involving the two major airports and the most UNESCO visited locations such asAgrigento and the Aeolian Archipelago (into the analyzed context of Sicily). The comparison between the two modes of transport shows that thehelicopter has best performances and the seaplane has to land/take-off from sea.Research limitations/implications – The lack of data on the performances of the whole world production of seaplanes and helicopters (such asRussian, Chinese or US old machines) could give a distortion of the result. On the other hand, all mostly used machines in the world at the momentare considered. A survey on the fear of flight and on the choice between the two different forms of air transport could give a more precise result.Practical implications – From an economic point of view, an operator could choose with more confidence the means of transport to use underdifferent conditions. The activation of passenger services with seaplanes and helicopters can give an impulse to the growth of little operators andto the tourism. So, this study could be a starting point for authorities to plan a regional network of little general aviation airfields and seadromes(located in the great lakes or near the ports) near the major tourist locations. It could make possible to develop a synergic regional commuting trafficinvolving the seaplane and the helicopter.Social implications – Seaplanes and helicopters represent the most important means of transport when poor accessibility conditions and need ofready and fast connections coexist, for example, the commuting between airports and remote regions or downtowns with high tourist or businessimpact. The activation of passenger services with seaplanes and helicopters can give an impulse to the growth of little operators and to the tourism,consequently to the regional accessibility and economy.Originality/value – There is a lack of studies involving the comparison between seaplanes and helicopters. This study could represent an importantmeans to analyze the parameters that influence the possibility of activation for this kind of services and to find the factors that influence thefeasibility of business with the two different machines. The encouraging performances of the flying boat suggest a future development of aninnovative
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalAircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology
Publication statusPublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering


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