Aircraft Safety & Training

Critical aircraft landing zone safety guidelines for our hospital and EMS partners.

Aircraft Safety & Training

Critical aircraft landing zone safety guidelines for our hospital and EMS partners.

Helicopter Safety
  • DO NOT approach the helicopter when the rotor blades are turning unless signaled to do so by the flight crew.
  • DO NOT run near or onto the landing area.
  • DO NOT walk behind the helicopter at any time. The tail rotor turns 3 times faster than the main rotor and can be difficult to see.
  • WALK with CAUTION onto the landing area when it's wet or icy.
  • STAY forward of the helicopter's skids, within the pilot's range of vision at all times.
  • DO NOT place or hold IV poles or bags above shoulder level in the landing area. Keep a watchful eye on monitoring equipment when loading or off-loading patients.
  • DO NOT open and close helicopter doors. Please leave this to the Flight For Life crew.

Firefighters: The approach hazards for the Flight For Life® Colorado helicopter are 10 Liters of liquid oxygen on the right side baggage compartment behind the cabin, and up to 143 gallons of Jet Fuel (Jet A) centered under the rotor.

Who should receive helipad safety training?

Our objectives for helipad safety are to provide initial and recurrent helipad safety training for hospital staff, familiarize all staff with helicopter operations on the helipad, review helipad safety systems and ensure that patient loading and off-loading are performed safely and efficiently.

All hospital staff with a responsibility to respond to the helipad. Usually, patient care staff, hospital security officers and plant operations/maintenance staff. All staff should receive initial and annual refresher training. Track these trainings on training rosters.

Basics of helipad safety:

  • Remain alert at all times
  • Restrict access to those with current helipad safety training
  • Be aware of any changes in helipad surroundings
  • Wait for signal from flight crew to approach the aircraft
  • Always remain in view of the crew
  • Daily helipad inspection
  • Clear or secure all loose objects
  • Remove snow/ice
  • Use only non-corrosive ice melter
  • Check all navigational aids - windsock, beacon, perimeter and flood lights
  • Inspect surrounding area for new hazards - cranes, new construction, birds, etc
  • Check fire suppression systems and escapes
  • Before the aircraft arrives - ensure helipad is clear of rock, trash, carts and cords
  • Debris can injure staff or damage aircraft

Keep all staff in protected area:

  • Inside building or behind structures
  • Rotor wash can be hazardous
  • Secure all loose clothing, caps, scarves, etc
  • Implement universal precautions, as appropriate
  • On ground level helipads, restrict pedestrian and/or vehicle traffic

Aircraft arrival:

  • At night - keep flood lights off until aircraft has landed
  • Remain in protected location until helicopter rotor blades have stopped
  • Watch for signal from the flight crew to approach
  • Always walk while on the helipad
  • Use caution when surface is slippery
  • Allow flight crew to open and close doors
  • Follow flight crew's instructions during off-loading

"Hot" off-loading:

  • Communication Center will advise you if Flight For Life has requested a hot offload (with rotor blades turning)
  • Secure all loose clothing, caps, scarves, stethoscopes
  • Use eye and ear protection
  • Remain in protected area until signaled to approach by flight crew
  • Allow flight crew to operate all doors.
  • "Approach from within view of pilot
  • Keep head low when walking under rotor blades, especially when windy
  • Keep hands at shoulder level
  • Avoid lifting anything into rotor blades
  • Never go behind cabin area or rear of skids
  • Extreme danger from spinning tail rotor

Patient off-loading:

  • Allow flight crew to operate stretcher system
  • Position cart in proper position, setting brake
  • Wait for signal from flight crew to remove stretcher
  • Watch for tension on IV lines, oxygen tubing, monitoring cables
  • Assist flight crew with patient care, as needed

Be familiar with your helipad systems:

  • Fire suppression and escape
  • Communications
  • Lighting
  • Request specific training with helicopter services that frequent your facility
  • Flight For Life® Colorado
  • Eurocopter AS-350 B3 "A-Star"
  • Single patient, loaded into left side of cabin
  • Shut down requires approximately 30-60 sec
  • Tail rotor on right side of tail boom

If you are responsible for selecting the Landing Zone, you should:

  • Be the person in radio contact with the helicopter pilot
  • Walk the area to determine any hazards near the Landing Zone, such as power lines, which are difficult to see, especially at night
  • If setting up Landing Zone at night and power/light poles are noted, walk to the pole and determine where the wires go from the pole
  • If landing at night, once the landing zone is confirmed by the pilot, you may be asked to turn off all white lights

The helicopter pilot will contact you on your radio frequency. 

The pilot will need to know:

  • Location of the Landing Zone - i.e. "Two miles north of town"
  • Wind direction and speed - i.e. "from the west at 5 mph"
  • Hazards around and near the Landing Zone - i.e. "Wires to the east of the Landing Zone at tree height and fence to the north"
  • When you can see the helicopter - at this time, direct the pilot, if he hasn't seen you, by telling him to turn east, west, north or south, or to his left or right

Flight For Life® Colorado pilots use GPS coordinates to assist them in finding the scene.  Based on your description of the patient's geographic location, Flight For Life® Colorado communication specialists will determine those coordinates. It's not necessary for scene personnel to provide the GPS coordinates, and we will not delay a helicopter's launch waiting for coordinates.

The pilot will work to keep the landing zone as close to the scene as possible. If the pilot requests a different landing zone, he may have noted some hazard from the air that may not have been apparent from the ground.

How to select a safe landing zone:

  • Please secure a 100x100 foot square
    • Area can be road, street, intersection, clearing, etc.

Order of preference for landing area surface is:

  • Concrete
  • Grass
  • Asphalt
  • Gravel
  • Smooth Rock
  • Snow
  • Dirt

Area should be free of debris, litter or other loose objects, reasonably smooth with a slope of not more than 10 degrees. Be prepared to give the flight crew a landing zone briefing of obstacles, terrain, and other hazards. Directions relative to the pilot's field of vision, ie: 3 o'clock, 6 o'clock etc., are necessary.

When in a fixed-wing aircraft safety zone ambulances should not back up to the airplane, but pull alongside, parallel to it and with plenty of distance between the ambulance and the tip of the wing. The ambulance should remain at the airport until the airplane has departed and when the airplane is in motion, the ambulance should have strobe and bright lights turned off.

View Flight For Life® Colorado's Helicopter Safety Flyer