Establishing an HLS (Helicopter Landing Site)/ granting permission to land at your venue
In general terms, and in 99% of circumstances, if you are the owner/operator/person in authority at a venue where you have been asked if a helicopter can land, the only permission the pilot requires is yours!
You don’t need anyone else’s authority, and neither does the pilot! No paperwork, no additional insurance, no risk assessment, no need to inform the Police, the Pope or your neighbours and most important of all (well o.k. not really) NO CHARGE !
It’s simple and straightforward if you’re in the position of allowing a car to visit your location, you have the appropriate authority to grant permission to the pilot to land his/her aircraft. There are well over 1,000 hotels, restaurants, pubs and golf courses in the U.K. that accept helicopters and it’s growing daily. Oh, and you don’t need a ‘helipad’ either. A small open area, like a grass verge or any unused area of your establishment is perfectly sufficient.
A little more detail
Helicopter operations within the United Kingdom have been steadily increasing since the late 1960’s and private ownership and usage is also steadily growing. Although helicopter travel is not necessarily common, it is certainly not un-common or unusual. Fortunately, the rules surrounding where and when a helicopter can land are quite simple and straightforward. It complements the very versatile nature of the helicopter itself. In basic terms, like a car, the pilot is able to walk to the aircraft, start the engine, travel to it’s destination and land !
The general rule of thumb for the owner/operator of the proposed landing area is that if you’re happy to allow the helicopter to land (and why wouldn’t you be ?) then it can! No paperwork is required, no additional insurance is needed, no contact with the Police, no forms to complete or permission from the local airport or council or g-d know who else. It’s simple and straightforward ! Your permission can be given verbally and no other formal arrangements need to be in place.
The pilot has most of the associated responsibilities, in that he/she has to satisfy him/herself that the landing site is suitable and safe and not within a prohibited area. If it’s inside controlled airspace they will (or should) be communicating with the Air Traffic controller. However, all these items are normal for the pilot and it is their responsibility to comply with.
General Guidelines for Venues
If you receive a request to land at the site you operate and the pilot has suggested an area you should give consideration to the following in order to assist the safe arrival and departure of the aircraft. You probably know that area better than the pilot so any general advice is of great benefit If there is a more suitable area, or an area that you would prefer them to land and park, then suggest it :-
Remember, it is the PILOT’s responsibility to ensure the safe operation of the aircraft.
- Does the area appear big enough ?
- Is it clear of overhead cables or other form of obstruction ?
- Is the surface suitable?
- Is the area free of debris ?
- Is the area ‘confined’ (Although helicopters are capable, and regularly, land an take off vertically, in 99% of cases they take off and land in a forward traveling direction )
Why should i ?
The correct question, is why shouldn’t I ? Helicopters traditionally want to land at a hotel, restaurant or pub. The occupants are likely to be patrons of yours, just like any other, except they are flying in, rather than driving. They will be spending money at you’re location and that’s good for your business. Allowing a helicopter to land often raises the profile of the venue, encourages other helicopters to land and very, very often encourages others to visit your venue because they hope to see a helicopter land or depart. In doing so, the chances are they are spending money too.
Should I charge ?
Absolutely not! The helicopter community, whilst probably that little bit more affluent than the rest of your customers, do not take kindly to being charged for landing. The area you designate for helicopters is probably not being used for anything else and if you’re not charging your other customers to park, you shouldn’t be charging to land either. Landing a helicopter at a registered airfield which has fuel, fire cover, security and maintenance typically costs £10 – £15 in the U.K. You’re going to recover that many times over so don’t make the mistake of trying to secure a landing/parking fee. There is a blacklist of venues that have tried to secure ludicrous amounts of money for allowing a helicopter to land. Thankfully it’s a very short list, but those venues have been incredibly short sighted. What is acceptable, is a polite request that in return for allowing the helicopter to land, the facilities are used i.e. the occupants are staying overnight or having a meal in a restaurant .
Some common concerns questions/concerns…….
- Helicopters are noisy – yes, they are a bit, but not for long. Typically, they are loud for about two minutes after they land whilst the engine cools down and post landing checks are completed. However, you will find that if you are 50ft away, they actually aren’t that loud at all and they certainly aren’t louder than a lawnmower which drones on all afternoon !
- Helicopters are dangerous – nonsense! A motorcycle is more dangerous by a multiple of about 1000. There are more motor related incidents in one hour in the U.K. than there are in one year in a helicopter. So if you’re concerned that allowing a helicopter to land is going to result in it parking in your restaurant, then you’d best go and buy a lottery ticket because there is more chance of you winning the jackpot.
- I need to secure the area, inform my insurance and g-d knows what else…………No you don’t. Helicopters don’t really need anything except some space, and your permission.
- I need permission from the Police – no you don’t
- I need permission from my local airport – no you don’t
- I need planning permission – no you don’t
- I need to build a helipad – no you don’t. You don’t need to do anything at all !!!
In general you are only likely to be asked for permission to land a helicopter at your venue if the pilot has already, reasonably established, that it’s safe to do so and there is sufficient area in which to land and take off. Unless there is a good reason not to allow it to land, or you genuinely would prefer that they didn’t (g-d knows why you wouldn’t though) then all you need to do is grant your permission. A list of other venues that accept helicopters can be found here, or by typing a search into Google.
Finally, if you do take the sensible decision to allow helicopters to land, then promote it on your website and other literature. Add the co-ordinates and grid reference to your ‘how to find us’ page and stipulate any requirements that you may have e.g. no movements before or after a certain time, no parking closer than x feet to the building or that you simply want a quick phone call prior to arrival (this being the most common).
Finally, if you do decide to allow helicopters to land, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org , and I’ll add it to my Helicopter Landing Site list and possibly visit too.
Additional information can be found on the British Helicopter Association website.