Helipaddy Community, Site Owners

A Site Owner’s Guide to Helicopters

S = Size

Quick answer: assuming no nearby high trees or buildings, and a single medium sized helicopter, prepare an area around 30m square.  For comparison a tennis court is 27m long.

Size is naturally the factor we get asked most often. Some owners believe they need more or less an airport sized piece of ground whilst others believe it just needs to be the size of a helipad for “vertical lift-off”. 

Site owners are generally asking what is the minimum size they should offer incoming pilots and the answer is different if it is a private or commercially-operated flight – here we are considering mainly private flights.  The rules can vary around the world but the UK has set many of the standards and so we are basing the article on UK regulations as of 2021. 

The pilot will assess whether it is big enough for them at their experience level to get their sized aircraft in and what type of approach is necessary (e.g. a large area – single angle approach/departure, a medium sized area – a double angle approach/departure, or a small area – a vertical approach/departure).  The landing zone can be thought of as a cone whose shape is bound by the heights of trees on the entry/exit flight path.

Firstly, we define the overall largest dimension of the helicopter as D.  

Working out the largest dimension of a helicopter, known as “D”

So D, for an EC135 as shown, is 12.16m. Permanent helipads are usually hard, circular surfaces with lights around the edge. The vast majority of Helicopter landing areas are not helipads but allocated areas of grass. A landing area should be set up as follows:

The landing zone dimensions
  • Circle 1 should be a firm, flat, level surface of around 85% of D, with a typical diameter of 30 feet or 10m.
  • Circle 2 should be 100% of D, cleared/mown to ground level, typically 10-15 meters meters.
  • Circle 3 should be 2 times D and be free of obstructions over 25cm high (ankle height), so typically 20-30 meters.

Marking circle 1 with an H inside with white paint is optional but leaving loose markers anywhere inside circle 3 is forbidden and will prevent the pilot from landing at all. 

If you are expecting night landings, a good tip is to park a car outside circle 3 with the hazard lights in and the dipped headlights pointing towards circle 1, preferably from one side.  Night landings obviously require helipad lighting.

High trees will affect where this area can be located on your land and this is where the “Surround” factor comes in, as described next.

Sometimes the size in constrained because of more than one helicopter try to fit in