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Chapter IV

       As has been demonstrated in the preceding chapter the operation of scheduled helicopter air carriers has been limited primarily to providing transportation to, from and between airports on segments of intercity air journeys.  Although helicopter carrier routes have joined suburban and downtown areas, the primary purpose of such a route structure has been to feed traffic from residential areas and from business areas into major metropolitan airports rather than to provide commuter service between the suburb and the downtown areas.  Present helicopter service is part of our national air transportation system while surface commuter service is part of local metropolitan area transportation systems.

       The passenger opinion survey referred to in Chapter III showed that nearly all of the passengers of present helicopter services are making connections to, from or between regular airline trips at major airports.  The reason why there are no commuters using helicopter service is simple: present helicopter service is too expensive to use for daily personal travel.  Yields from fares range from 16 cents per passenger mile in the case of Los Angeles Airways to 49.8 cents in the case of San Francisco and Oakland Helicopters.  In contrast, commutation fares by surface means average four cents or less per passenger mile.  Given the level of operating costs of present vertical-lift aircraft, therefore, the daily commutation market offers little in the way of traffic potential for the present helicopter carriers.

       Looking to the future, however, it is reasonable to assume that lower fares will be possible as advanced vertical-lift aircraft produce operating costs lower than those of the present turbine aircraft.  The question is, therefore, will these fares be low enough to attract any significant amount of the daily commuter market?  Also, it is certain that the urban transportation problems of our large metropolitan areas will increase in severity as these areas grow in size and population.  Therefore, will surface traffic congestion become so severe that the expedited service inherent in air transportation will be required to transport commuters from outlying suburban or fringe areas into the central business district?

       The purpose of this chapter is to consider these questions and to relate the capabilities of vertical-lift aircraft to the nation's urgent urban transportation problems.  In this consideration, an effort will be made to define the role of vertical-lift aircraft as a part of local transportation systems during the next 10 to 12 years.  Attention will be paid exclusively to the commuting, or intra-urban, part of the transportation problems of large US metropolitan areas.  The characteristics of travel within the central city are such as to preclude any application of air vehicles in the time period under study. Passenger journeys are too short, traffic densities are too high and pick-up and delivery requirements in congested areas rule out any aircraft operations within the central city.

       As many suburban dwellers commute daily over distance comparable to those traveled by present helicopter passengers in airport transportation, it is reasonable to assume that there may be some application of vertical-lift aircraft to this segment of intra-urban travel. Because the capabilities of vertical-lift aircraft offer the possibility of operating into and out of the congested and confined central business district, it is possible that air transportation might be used to alleviate some of the problems arising from severe surface traffic congestion and from time-delays involved in commuting from outlying areas by conventional surface means.

[Underlined]Characteristics of Commutation Market[/Underlined]
      In considering any possible applications of vertical-lift aircraft to commutation travel, it is necessary first to consider the present and future characteristics of that market and then to relate those characteristics to the economic and technical characteristics of vertical-lift aircraft.


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