If you’re looking to buy a helicopter or are interested in utilising helicopter charter services, one of the main considerations you might have is where you might be allowed to land. Aside from the obvious things like capacity, engine size and the distance you might be able to travel, this is the one other thing that could restrict your travel options in a chartered helicopter. Generally speaking, the requirements for a landing site are a flat area of ground about the size of 2 tennis courts, with no obstructions.
But what happens when you have different helicopters of different sizes and speeds? The law states it is the responsibility of the pilot to ensure that the layout of the landing site is within the performance capability of his or her helicopter. One of the key things to remember is that, unless a helicopter is taking off or landing in accordance with normal practice, it is not allowed to fly within 500 feet of a person, vehicle or structure. This is something worth considering if you live in an urban area or are planning to fly to built-up places. If you’re hoping to land on an elevated site within a city, such as a rooftop landing pad, you’ll need a twin helicopter.
There’s also a key rule pilots use when navigating over busy, urban areas, often referred to as the “1,000 Foot Rule”. This means that if you’re above an urban area, you must stay at a height of at least 1,000 feet above the highest fixed object within 600 meters of the helicopter. Therefore when approaching a particularly high landmark, such as a cathedral or office tower, your helicopter will need to increase its altitude before it gets within 600 meters.
If you’re considering buying your own helicopter, or having a chartered helicopter service land on private property that you own, there are obvious exceptions to the general rules. Helicopters that are landing in the confines of private property are exempt from planning consent, making personal travel for work or leisure somewhat easier.
As expected, the penalties for deviating from proper landing protocol are quite severe. As recently as 2015, a pilot was fined £1,700 for illegal airspace entry and landing at Heathrow.
The rules outlined above may seem stringent, but they work. In almost 20 years there have only been 33 fatal incidents reported nationwide. Private helicopters are fast, efficient and safe when handled correctly and there are many places to land outside of urban zones. If you’re hoping to make use of this service to fly into urban zones that are built up, helicopter hire companies or charter helicopters will often have special arrangements in place that allow them to touch down as near to your destination as possible. For example, London has its own heliport in Battersea, and there’s even a pub with its own helipad in Oxfordshire. The majority of chartered helicopter services will own designated spots at given airports too, but if you have any particular specifications it’s always worth checking to see if they can get you closer to where you need to be.