Helicopter landing site owners
Helicopter landing site owners
A guide for owners of landing sites and helipads in EASA-land
We recently flew to a hotel in the UK that was ideally situated along our route (thumbs up to Helipaddy). The hotel explained that a landing fee would be due of £50 per helicopter (£250 for the group of 5 helis) and this amount would be added to the room bill and then forwarded on the local farmer who was the owner of the land. None of us objected on economic grounds and the £250 was duly collected with the assumption that 100% would be transferred to the farmer at some later date.
This is a useful example because it raises several points that really should be better understood by pilots and owners when it comes to landing an aircraft, quite apart from the FAQ which is “how much should I charge?”.
The laws that apply here are
- Aviation law, namely EASA regulations (in Brexit, the CAA will most likely replicate these)
- contract law
- tort law and specifically duty of care, and it is this last one that should be of most interest to helicopter site owners.
EASA regulations deal with pilot responsibilities and licensed sites, but 99% of helicopter landing sites are unlicensed an outside the scope of the CAA, for example (CAA’s CAP documents are guidelines not laws). EASA deals with the competence of the pilot and the rules that must be followed until the aircraft has landed. If their is an accident at the landing site, and the pilot didn’t follow EASA rules, it would be very diffuclt to find the site owner liable. So this is a warning to pilots: know the rules, in particular regarding details like PPR, local airspace, RT and congested areas.
Contract law applies to the commercial deal that is agreed, verbal or otherwise, between the pilot and the land owner. If the pilot is a consumer and not a company, he/she has greater protections eg. getting a refund if he/she never landed. In our case above, it is complicated by the fact that the hotel is acting as a kind of agent between us and the farmer. There are lots of agency deals done by us every day without thinking eg.
The Trainline: we’re an official agent on behalf of train, coach and bus operators (we’ll collectively call them “the operators” from now on), but we don’t run these services ourselves. We’re only responsible for our booking service, to the extent laid out in these Terms and Conditions. And, when you use our booking service (even if it’s just browsing), you’re acknowledging that you’ve read and understood that your use is subject to these Terms and Conditions. Also, just to note when we capitalise ‘Terms and Conditions’ it’s because we’re talking about ours, the ones you’re reading right now, and when it’s lowercase that means we’re talking about ones separate to these, like terms and conditions of the operators or third-parties.
The bottom line is that we have two contracts in our example, one with the agency, the hotel, and one with the operator of the land, the farmer. This doesn’t particularly matter until either you want a refund or, worse, you have an accident and/or damage property.
Tort law (or “blame law”) typically manifests itself in health and safety legislation and more generally the duty of care owed between parties. Put simply, land owners must be very careful not to be negligent when they provide a landing site and they should always have public liability insurance. Insurance policies sometimes cover negligence but will not ever cover acts of gross negligence — this is forbidden. Let’s look at this a bit more carefully:
¹Everyone has a legal duty to behave in a reasonable manner towards others. Those who fail to do so will be legally obliged to pay compensation to anyone who is injured or whose property is damaged as a result of their actions. These liabilities may arise through the careless or negligent acts of business owners and their employees, due to defects in premises, or under certain Statutes which impose liabilities. For example, if you fail to maintain your premises properly and a visitor is injured they may make a claim against you. Compensation could include financial recompense for any expenses incurred, loss of earnings, possible loss of future earnings, pain and suffering, and perhaps other items.
Public liability insurance
Public Liability Insurance covers the cost of compensation to third parties (i.e. pilots and/or helicopter owners) for death, injury or damage to their property (i.e. aircraft), which happens as a result of a firm’s business activities (for a landing site, this is usually means the business of running a hotel). A ‘third party’ is anyone outside the company that their business has contact with — including, for example, people visiting the premises (i.e. however they arrive!), watching activities that the business has organised and even passers-by.
Public liability insurance is not usually compulsory by law, except for a very limited number of businesses which are covered by specific legislation, such as riding schools. However, customers (i.e. pilots) may require businesses to have public liability cover as a condition of paying landing fees and can ask for confirmation in writing that cover is in force.
The interesting point of note here is that landing site owners are advised to have public liability insurance and to make sure that does not exclude visiting helicopters. Furthermore, owners who wish to charge landing fees should expect to be able to produce proof that they have a policy in force. Helipaddy has been in discussion with various insurers to make sure that such policies are available and include helicopter landings, whilst keep the owners’ costs down, especially those for whom landings can be quite rare events.
To assist owners, and to improve the risk profile shown to underwriters, Helipaddy have also developed a comprehensive site survey for owners before accepting landing helicopters. This site survey system is part of a broader offering that Helipaddy provides free of charge to owners to help them maintain approved risk management plans.
Some land owners will ask the aircraft owner for proof of indemnity insurance, especially if they do not have their own, before giving landing permission.
Some land owners will ask to be indemnified on the aircraft Insurance policy as an additional insured. They do this to protect themselves from a subrogation² claim arising out of an accident which isn’t their fault. If they request an indemnity then they will sometimes not accept landings at all unless they are shown some documentation naming them as an insured.
TK NEED TO UNDERSTAND NEED FOR INDEMNITIES as there is an opportunity to automate the creation of them.
TK NEED TO UNDERSTAND the difference between a disclaimer and an indemnity
Sample Indemnity Disclaimer #1 (Based on an airstrip in a game reserve)
I, the undersigned, acting in my personal capacity / on behalf of and duly authorized by the Owner and/or Operator of certain aircraft specified (“the Aircraft”) hereby acknowledge that I, on my own behalf and on behalf of the Owner and/or Operator, use the landing site situated on the property known as [My Hotel] entirely at my/our own risk. My/our use of the landing site signifies our unconditional and irrevocable acceptance of the terms set out in this document.
Use of the landing site shall be deemed to include but not limited to, landing, taking off, taxing, parking, loading, alighting, repairing, boarding or any other activity related to the aircraft.
I/we acknowledge further that the landing site is in a wildlife area, is unlicensed, is unmanned, is unfenced and is not regularl y maintained and that the use of the landing site, and the approaches to and departures from the landing site, may be hazardous to aircraft and/or their occupants. I/we acknowledge that neither the owners and/or directors and/or management give any warranties, representations or undertakings in regard to the suitability of the landing site and that the use thereof is entirely at the sole risk and responsibility of the member/owner/operator of the aircraft concerned.
I/we hereby indemnify and hold [My Hotel] harmless against any claims, loss, damage or actions which may be brought by or against me/us or any other persons whatsoever, as a result of or in connection with the use of the landing site by me/us. We undertake jointly and severally to meet all such claims or to contest them for our own account and our own cost including legal costs in this regard incurred by [My Hotel] on an attorney and client scale.
I/we undertake that the contents of this Indemnity undertaking have been advised to, and accepted by, the Insurers of the Aircraft and that such Insurers have agreed to waive any and all rights of recourse against [My Hotel] howsoever such rights might arise.
I/we waive any and all claims of whatsoever cause or nature including negligence, howsoever arising which I/we might have against the reserve parties.
Without delegating from the generality of the aforegoing, I/we acknowledge that [My Hotel] shall not be liable to myself and/or any passengers and/or the owners/operators of the aircraft nor any of the dependants of the aforesaid parties for any injury, illness, harm, death, damage of whatsoever nature or cause including not limited to negligence.
Sample Indemnity Disclaimer #2 (Based on 3rd party operator of Ascot)
In consideration of being granted permission to use the ground services and facilities at [My Hotel], we agree to indemnify [My Hotel] in respect of any liabilities, direct or indirect and of any kind whatsoever which might attach to the organizers, sponsors and their contractors arising out of the use of the facilities by our aircraft.
We confirm that we have, in force Third Party Insurance for a limit of no less than £10,000,000 (pounds sterling) for any accident, and such policy/ies have been endorsed to include the above named as additional assured, subject to a one-way cross liability clause, LSW714 (12/93) in favour of [My Hotel]. We further confirm that a hold harmless and waiver of rights of subrogation has been endorsed on the Hull Policy (if insured) in favour of the above named, SUBJECT TO THE POLICY COVERAGE, TERMS, CONDITIONS, LIMITATIONS AND EXCLUSIONS.
Sample Indemnity Disclaimer #2 (Based on a Council owned site)
The Applicant agrees to indemnify the Council and any member, employee, servant or agent of the Council.
- In respect of injury (including injury resulting in death) to any member, employee, servant or agent of the Council;
- In respect of any damage to the landing aite, and any loss of or damage to the Council’s buildings, stores, equipment or other property thereon;
- Against any claim for personal injury, damage or loss which may be made against the Council or any member, employee, servant or agent of the Council by any person whomsoever, including (but without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing) any passenger in the Applicant’s aircraft and any tenant of the landing site or landing site’s premises;
- Which may arise out of or in connection with the use of any landing site pursuant to the Permission, however such injury, loss or damage may be caused, except to the extent that such injury, damage or loss is the result of the negligence or wilful act or omission of the Council, its employees or agents whilst acting in the course of their employment.
- The Applicant agrees to make no claim against the Council or any member, employee or agent of the Council in respect of personal injury (including injury resulting in death), which may arise in connection with the use of any landing site pursuant to the grant of Permission, unless arising from the negligence of the Council, its employees or agents whilst acting in the course of their employment.
- The Applicant agrees to make no claim against the Council for any loss of, or damage to, the Applicant’s aircraft or any property therein which may arise in connection with the use of any landing site pursuant to the grant of Permission, howsoever such injury, loss or damage may be caused.The Applicant undertakes to pay to the Council the sum(s) equal to any sum which may be paid by the Council in respect of the death or injury of any member, employee, servant or agent of the Council which may arise out of or in connection with the use of any landing site pursuant to the grant of Permission.
- The Applicant undertakes to maintain in force at all times a valid policy of insurance covering all risks and losses described above, for each and every landing, and to produce the relevant policy/policies for inspection by the Council on request.
- The Applicant acknowledges and accepts that, in the event of making a landing at one of the said landing sites, neither Air Traffic Control/Flight Information Service facilities, nor Rescue and Fire Fighting Services, will be available.
Questions and answers for site owners
Here we provide a list of typical questions to assist owners with deciding how to set up their helipad or landing site. Helipaddy would be happy to speak to any existing or prospective site owner via phone or email to provide some guidance or insurance suggestions.
- My hotel or business already operates a landing site. Should I charge fees and how much?
- I am a private landowner and allow helicopters. Should I charge fees and how much?
- I want some public liability insurance so how much does it cost?
- Do I need to provide instructions to incoming pilots?
- Do I need to mark out or prepare any particular area i.e. helipad?
- How do I know if my landing site is safe?
It partly depends on the site and partly on local conditions at the time of landing. Since the latter are unknown, it is helpful to provide the pilot some guidance as to how weather affects the site. There are other factors such as noise abatement advisories which don’t always affect safety, but sometimes do. The best is to set up a Helipaddy site survey which deals with all these questions.
- I don’t own a landing site but the neighbouring land owner obviously does and I am annoyed by it. Is there anything I can do?
- Do I need planning permission?
- There is an annual sporting event near me and I would like to offer up my location as a convenient shuttle site. Is this advisable or even allowed?
- The safest landing area looks to be in a neighbouring field whcih I do not own. Can I still accept visiting helicopters?
¹Paragraph is courtesy of The Chartered Insurance Institute, a professional body dedicated to building public trust in the insurance profession
² Subrogation is the right that every insurance company reserves in all insurance policies to recover losses from a third party deemed to have contributed to the loss.