Staff Reporter THE regional ministry for the Environment repeated its assurances yesterday that the Balearics will be able to call on the use of four helicopters, specially allocated to the Islands to help in extinguishing forest fires.

It was also confirmed that, in spite of similarities in registration numbers of the craft provided by the operating company, Helisureste, these services will not be shared with the region of Aragon on the Peninsula. As previously reported, the Aragonese government has already denied SEPLA's allegations. Sources at the Balearic ministry said that the company in question fulfills all the necessary requirements stipulated by the government.

Helisureste was asked to concede another helicopter in a similar or better category, in the event of one of the craft proving defective. “We are absolutely sure that there are going to be four fire-fighting helicopters allocated to the Islands, and that Aragon will have a separate allocation; so that the craft in the Balearics will not be flying from Ibiza to Huesca, for example”, announced the same sources.

The ministry made these declarations after the Spanish Union of Airline Pilots (SEPLA) signalled that the Balearic government had confirmed to them that the 4 helicopters put forward for operations in the Islands, were the same as those singled out for fire-fighting in Aragon.

According to the Union, there are “numerous” doubts surrounding the behaviour of Helisureste. Andoni Nieto, a SEPLA spokesman, said that this company will have to clarify how it aims to maintain a quality service with the same craft in two separate regions, taking into account that to send a helicopter from Ibiza to Huesca needs a flight time of 3 hours.

Nieto explained that, in spite of the Balearic government having said they are not worried about the registration numbers of the helicopters but rather how they perform, Helisureste still has not explained how these craft are going to operate simultaneously in Aragaon and the Balearics.

It is for this reason, claim SEPLA, that the company still has to answer questions on the quality of service it allegedly offers. “This case, yet again, highlights the usual ambiguity surrounding the operating claims of this company”, asserted Nieto. He purported that it has still not been made clear what action the company would take if a hypothetical situation turned to reality whereby there were two major forest fires blazing in both Aragon and the Balearica at the same time.