New Regulation on the Use of Civil Helicopters for Commercial Purposes

Julio López Quiroga.

12/05/2007 International Law Office


Royal Decree 279/2007, which establishes the requirements for the operation of civil helicopters for commercial transportation purposes, was published in the Official Gazette on March 21 2007.

The purpose of the decree is to incorporate into Spanish law JAR-OPS 3, which was issued by the Joint Aviation Authorities. JAR-OPS 3, which will enter into force in Spain on September 21 2007, regulates the operation of civil helicopters for commercial transportation purposes. The decree aims to (i) ensure that the essential requirements established in Part III of Annex 6 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation are fulfilled, and (ii) establish higher safety standards.

In order to carry out transport operations using civil helicopters, an air operator certificate must be obtained. Certificates for operators with registered offices in Spain will be issued by the General Directorate of Civil Aviation, which is under the remit of the Ministry of Development. Once a certificate is granted, an operating licence must be obtained in accordance with EU law.

The decree will not apply to state-owned helicopters or helicopters carrying out military, police or salvage and rescue activities. Overflight and landing in the Spanish territory of state-owned helicopters from countries other than Spain will require an authorization. However, certificates issued by other member states of the Joint Aviation Authorities will be accepted in Spain provided that these states:

  • have fully adopted JAR-OPS 3;
  • recognize the certificates issued by the Spanish authorities (principle of reciprocity); and
  • can prove that the requirements set out in the decree have been fulfilled (ie, the requirements under JAR-OPS 3).

As a consequence of the approval of the decree, the Air Traffic Regulation will be considered as amended, as its provisions contradict those of the decree.

The decree is of significant importance for Spain; the heliport of Ceuta, which is among the national airports of general interest, represents a key channel to access this city.