A Site Owner’s Guide to Helicopters
What Makes A Great Landing Site
The instructions in this article are aimed at English-speaking aviation regions
For the vast majority of site owners, seeing helicopters land at their site is very exciting. Inevitably, they will ask us about what makes their site a great landing site. Helipaddy now allows pilots to rate landing sites and site owners can see this rating.
For a sample well-constructed and concise site description, see the post Sample landing site
Firstly, pilots and not Helipaddy, are responsible for rating your site. Secondly, they are rating it for its difficulty not for how pretty the roses are! Helipaddy defines five levels of difficulty which reflect the various static factors which all helicopter pilots will relate to.
GRADE 1. Some extreme factors - very difficult GRADE 2. Several factors - complicated landing GRADE 3. Some factors - manageable GRADE 4. Few factors - fairly easy GRADE 5. No factors - easy landing
Pilots will naturally assess a landing site based upon both static and dynamic factors. The static ones concern the physical properties of the site, e.g. trees, whilst the dynamic ones concern the last minute variable conditions on the day, e.g. weather.
A site can be usefully described with dimensions and photos – a preparatory site visit is not usually required. An exception would be, for example, commercial operations at night or in poor visibility.
Landing sites are often assessed by pilots on a five-factor system known as the 5 s’s. They are taught to recce the prospective landing site before establishing the final approach. By the time they are “on finals” they will have assessed the dynamic factors (wind, animals, other aircraft) and the options for a missed approach.
Site owners must detail noise avoidance areas on their site description in Helipaddy. Failure to address noise sensitivities is one of the biggest problems in the industry.
Fortunately, the noise signature of a helicopter is usually preferable to a paraglider or small plane. Although intense during landing and take off, it isn’t usually a problem unless you live near an airfield.
The five S’s:
If you are expecting commercial flights (e.g. hotels) then it is absolutely essential that you upload these photos into Helipaddy. When in doubt, we recommend you produce a Helipaddy-assisted site survey.
Site owners are also encouraged to provide wide angled photos of the landing area and surrounding trees and, if possible, an aerial approach shot.
It is quite likely that a site that should be rated 4 will end up being rated 2 just because pilots were unable to prepare properly without photographs.