Last updated

A heliport at Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada Heliport Niagara Falls Ontario.jpg
A heliport at Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
The Hernesaari Heliport in Hernesaari, Helsinki, Finland Hernesaaren helikopterikentta ilmasta.jpg
The Hernesaari Heliport in Hernesaari, Helsinki, Finland
Heliport of the university hospital Aachen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany Uka landeplatz morgengrauen.jpg
Heliport of the university hospital Aachen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

A heliport, sometimes termed a vertiport, is a small airport suitable for use by helicopters and various types of vertical lift aircraft. Designated heliports typically contain one or more touchdown and liftoff areas and may also have limited facilities such as fuel or hangars. In some larger towns and cities, customs facilities may also be available. [1]


Early advocates of helicopters hoped that heliports would become widespread, but they have become contentious in urban areas due to the excessive noise caused by helicopter traffic.

In American use a heliport is defined as "an area of land, water, or structure used or intended to be used for the landing and takeoff of helicopters and includes its buildings and facilities if any". A heliport will consist of one or more helipads, which are defined as "a small, designated area, usually with a prepared surface, on a heliport, airport, landing/take-off area, apron/ramp, or movement area used for takeoff, landing, or parking of helicopters". [2] [3]

In Canada the term heliport is legally only used for a certified aerodrome for helicopter use. [4]

Heliport airspace

The airspace immediately surrounding the heliport is called the Primary Surface. This area coincides in shape and size with the designated take-off and landing area. This surface is a horizontal plane equal to the elevation of the established heliport elevation. The Primary Surface is further broken down into three distinct regions. These are, the 'Touch-down and Lift-off' (TLOF) area, the 'Final Approach and Takeoff' (FATO) area and the 'Safety Area'. [1] [5]

The TLOF is a load-bearing, generally paved area, normally centered in the FATO, on which the helicopter lands and / or takes off. The FATO is a defined area over which the pilot completes the final phase of the approach to a hover or a landing, and from which the pilot initiates take-off. The FATO elevation is the lowest elevation of the edge of the TLOF. The Safety Area is a defined area on a heliport surrounding the FATO intended to reduce the risk of damage to helicopters accidentally diverging from the FATO. [1]


In a large metropolitan and urban areas, a heliport can serve passengers needing to quickly move within the city, or to outlying regions. Generally, heliports can be situated closer to a town or city center than an airport for fixed-wing aircraft. The advantage in flying by helicopter to a destination, or even to the city's main airport, is that travel can be much faster than by surface transport. [6] [7] As an example, the Downtown Manhattan Heliport in New York City provides scheduled service to John F. Kennedy International Airport, and is used to move wealthy persons and important goods quickly to destinations as far away as Maryland.

Police departments use heliports as a base for police helicopters, and larger departments may have a dedicated large heliport facility dedicated such as the LAPD Hooper Heliport. [8]

Some skyscrapers feature rooftop heliports to serve the transport needs of executives or clients. Many of these rooftop sites also serve as Emergency Helicopter Landing Facilities (EHLF), in case emergency evacuation is needed. The U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles is an example. [9] [10]

Helipads are common features at hospitals, where they serve to facilitate helicopter air ambulance and MEDEVACs for transferring patients into and out of hospital facilities. Some large trauma centers may have multiple helipads, while most small hospitals have just one. Helipads allow hospitals to accept patients flown in from remote accident sites, where there are no local hospitals or facilities capable of providing the level of emergency care required. [11]

The National EMS Pilots Association (NEMSPA) has published multiple white papers, surveys and safety recommendations for the enhancement of hospital helipad operations to improve patient safety. [12]

Heliport markings

While heliports can be oriented in any direction, they will generally have very definitive approach and departure paths. However, heliports are not numbered in the same way that runways at airports are. Recommended standard practice by both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is to orient a H in the center of the TLOF, in line with the preferred approach / departure direction. [1]

An information box should also be included in the TLOF area, which provides the aircraft gross weight the helipad is rated for, as well as the maximum size helicopter the helipad has been designed to accommodated, which is based on the helicopter rotor diameter and overall length of the largest design helicopter that will service the helipad. Under normal conditions, it is standard practice to paint the maximum gross weight a helipad is designed to support in either metric tonnes, kilograms, or thousands of pounds, along with the maximum helicopter dimensions in metres or feet. Arrows are oftentimes painted on the heliport to indicate to pilots the preferred approach / departure paths. Other common markings can include ownership, radio frequencies, company logo(s), and magnetic north. [1]


To conduct night-time operations, a heliport must have lighting installed that meets specific aeronautical standards. Heliport perimeter lights are generally installed around the TLOF area, and may be flush mounted on the TLOF itself, or mounted just off the TLOF perimeter on short metal or concrete extensions. [1]

One alternative to lighting the TLOF if certain criteria are met, is to light the area of the FATO instead. Some locations, due to environmental conditions, illuminate the TLOF and FATO. Lighting should never constitute an obstruction that a helicopter may impact, and for this reason, in the U.S., heliport lighting is not allowed to extend above the TLOF or FATO more than 2 inches (51 millimetres). Current standards recommend that all perimeter lighting be green. Prior standards recommended amber lighting for perimeter lights; however this wavelength has been shown to interfere with night vision goggle (NVG) operations, when used with older incandescent lighting.[ citation needed ]

In the past, lighting has been traditionally incandescent, but increasingly, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are being incorporated, due to lower power requirements and increased life. While flood lights may be used to enhance surface operations, they should not interfere with flight crew night vision, and should be kept off during flight operations, and only used when conducting ground movement operations. To conduct night operations, a lighted wind cone is also required. At ground-based heliports, lead-in lights may be incorporated to identify the preferred approach / departure direction. Visual slope guidance systems (such as HAPI, PAPI, etc.) are recommended options in both ICAO and FAA document. While airports commonly use 6.6A direct current power,[ citation needed ] heliport lighting is normally AC powered. Radio control of the lighting by the pilot via an automated ground-based controller is also common.[ citation needed ]

Approach / departure airspace

Copterline helicopter at the heliport of Linnahall in Tallinn, Estonia Copterline.jpg
Copterline helicopter at the heliport of Linnahall in Tallinn, Estonia

To provide for a safe environment to perform normal helicopter landing and take-off operations, each heliport must have unobstructed approach / departure paths. [1]

The minimum recommended separation between flight paths is 135 degrees. [1] A heliport approach path is broken down into two distinct airspace surfaces; the Approach Surface, and the Transitional Surface. The approach surface begins at each end of the heliport primary surface with the same width as the primary surface, and extends outward and upward for a horizontal distance of 4,000 feet (1,200 metres), where its width is 500 feet (150 metres). The slope of the approach surface is 8-to-1 for civil heliports. The Transitional Surfaces extend outward and upward from the lateral boundaries of the primary surface, and from the approach surfaces, at a slope of 2-to-1 for a distance of 250 feet (76 metres), measured horizontally from the centerline of the primary and approach surfaces. Approach paths can either be straight or curved to accommodate obstructions and avoidance areas. [1]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Airport</span> Facility with a runway for aircraft

An airport is an aerodrome with extended facilities, mostly for commercial air transport. Airports usually consist of a landing area, which comprises an aerially accessible open space including at least one operationally active surface such as a runway for a plane to take off and to land or a helipad, and often includes adjacent utility buildings such as control towers, hangars and terminals, to maintain and monitor aircraft. Larger airports may have airport aprons, taxiway bridges, air traffic control centres, passenger facilities such as restaurants and lounges, and emergency services. In some countries, the US in particular, airports also typically have one or more fixed-base operators, serving general aviation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Runway</span> Area of surface used by aircraft to takeoff from and land on

According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a runway is a "defined rectangular area on a land aerodrome prepared for the landing and takeoff of aircraft". Runways may be a human-made surface or a natural surface. Runways, taxiways and ramps, are sometimes referred to as "tarmac", though very few runways are built using tarmac. Takeoff and landing areas defined on the surface of water for seaplanes are generally referred to as waterways. Runway lengths are now commonly given in meters worldwide, except in North America where feet are commonly used.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Helipad</span> Landing area or platform for helicopters

A helipad is a landing area or platform for helicopters and powered lift aircraft.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Airfield traffic pattern</span>

An airfield traffic pattern is a standard path followed by aircraft when taking off or landing while maintaining visual contact with the airfield.

Aviation is the design, development, production, operation, and use of aircraft, especially heavier-than-air aircraft. Articles related to aviation include:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aerodrome</span> Location from which aircraft flight operations take place

An aerodrome or airdrome is a location from which aircraft flight operations take place, regardless of whether they involve air cargo, passengers, or neither, and regardless of whether it is for public or private use. Aerodromes include small general aviation airfields, large commercial airports, and military air bases.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">CFB Shearwater</span> Airport in Shearwater, Nova Scotia

Shearwater Heliport(ICAO: CYAW), formerly known as Canadian Forces Base Shearwater and commonly referred to as CFB Shearwater and formerly named HMCS Shearwater, is a Canadian Forces facility located 4.5 nautical miles east southeast of Shearwater, Nova Scotia, on the eastern shore of Halifax Harbour in the Halifax Regional Municipality. Following a base rationalization program in the mid-1990s, the Canadian Forces closed CFB Shearwater as a separate Canadian Forces base and realigned the property's various facilities into CFB Halifax. These include:

The visual approach slope indicator (VASI) is a system of lights on the side of an airport runway threshold that provides visual descent guidance information during final approach. These lights may be visible from up to 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) during the day and up to 32 kilometres (20 mi) or more at night.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Downtown Manhattan Heliport</span> Heliport in New York City

The Downtown Manhattan Heliport is a helicopter landing platform at Pier 6 in the East River in Lower Manhattan, New York, New York.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Olympia Regional Airport</span> Airport in Tumwater, Washington

Olympia Regional Airport is a public use airport located four nautical miles (7 km) south of the central business district of Olympia, a city in Thurston County and the capital of the U.S. state of Washington. It is owned by the Port of Olympia. It is about one mile (1.6 km) east of Interstate 5, actually within the boundaries of the city of Tumwater which is south of and adjacent to Olympia. The airport was identified in the Washington State Department of Transportation Long Term Aviation Study as a field that could potentially serve to relieve Seattle-Tacoma International Airport of increasing congestion.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aerodrome beacon</span> Beacon installed at an airport

An aerodrome beacon or rotating beacon or aeronautical beacon is a beacon installed at an airport or aerodrome to indicate its location to aircraft pilots at night.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Approach plate</span> Publication of an aircraft landing procedure

Approach plates are the printed or digital charts of instrument approach procedures that pilots use to fly instrument approaches during instrument flight rules (IFR) operations. Each country maintains its own instrument approach procedures according to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards.

Redcliffe Airport is an aerodrome serving Redcliffe in City of Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia. It is located 2.5 nautical miles northwest of Redcliffe, in the suburb of Rothwell, accessed via Nathan Road. The facility is owned and operated by Moreton Bay City Council, following the amalgamation of the Redcliffe City Council.

Bunbury Airport is an airport servicing the Western Australian city of Bunbury. Bunbury Airport is located 8 km (5.0 mi) south-east of the city centre and is the only airport serving the city. The airport is used largely as a facility for General Aviation, pilot training and emergency services. Bunbury Airport serves an area that includes the City of Bunbury and the surrounding districts of Harvey, Dardanup, Capel and Donnybrook-Balingup.

Sabre Army Heliport is a military use heliport located at Fort Campbell, seven nautical miles (13 km) northwest of the central business district of Clarksville, in Montgomery County, Tennessee, United States. Owned by the United States Army, it has one runway designated 4/22 with a concrete surface measuring 4,451 by 109 feet.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bergen Heliport, Grønneviksøren</span> Airport in Grønneviksøren, Bergen

Bergen Heliport, Grønneviksøren is a heliport situated at Grønneviksøren on the shore of Store Lungegårdsvannet in Bergen, Norway. It is solely used for air ambulance services to Haukeland University Hospital. The heliport is owned and operated by Bergen Hospital Trust. It is the base for a Eurocopter EC-135P2+ operated by Norsk Luftambulanse (NLA) for the Norwegian Air Ambulance. Grønneviksøren is also used by the Royal Norwegian Air Force's 330 Squadron's Westland Sea King search and rescue helicopters.

Stavanger Heliport, University Hospital is a heliport situated on the premises of Stavanger University Hospital in the Våland neighborhood of the city of Stavanger in the municipality of Stavanger in Rogaland county, Norway. Used exclusively for air ambulance services, it is home to a Eurocopter EC-135P2+ operated by Norsk Luftambulanse (NLA) on contract with the National Air Ambulance Service. The base is owned by Stavanger Hospital Trust. When it opened in 1981, it was the second such base in the country.

Dallas CBD Vertiport is a city-owned public heliport/vertiport in the city of Dallas, Dallas County, Texas, United States. The facility is located at the south end of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in the Dallas Central Business District, and is claimed to be the world's largest elevated heliport/vertiport.

DeSoto Heliport is a city-owned public heliport in DeSoto, Dallas County, Texas, United States, located 3 nautical miles (5.6 km) north of the central business district. The heliport has no IATA or ICAO designation.



  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Transport Canada (25 September 2015). "Standard 325 - Heliports - Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs)". tc.canada.ca. Archived from the original on 30 April 2022. Retrieved 30 April 2022.
  2. Federal Aviation Administration (17 June 2021). "Aeronautical Information Manual" (PDF). faa.gov. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
  3. Federal Aviation Administration (29 March 1962). "PART 1 - Definitions and Abbreviations". Federal Aviation Regulations. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
  4. Transport Canada (28 April 2022). "Canadian Aviation Regulations SOR/96-433". lois-laws.justice.gc.ca. Retrieved 29 April 2022. heliport means an aerodrome in respect of which a heliport certificate issued under Subpart 5 of Part III is in force
  5. "e-CFR: Title 14: Aeronautics and Space". ECFR.gov. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  6. Ward, D. J. (30 July 1982). "The urban heliport". The Aeronautical Journal. 86 (856): 216–219. doi:10.1017/S0001924000018893. S2CID   115448014.
  7. "Vertiport". 15 July 2016.
  8. "Air Operations - Police Department".
  9. "Aluminum Rooftop Helipads".
  10. "Elevated and Rooftop Helipads and Heliports - Aluminium Helipads". 21 February 2019.
  11. Federal Aviation Administration (30 September 2004). "AC 150/5390-2B Chapter 4. Hospital Heliports" (PDF). faa.gov. Retrieved 30 April 2022.
  12. National EMS Pilots Association (1 July 2011). "National EMS Pilots Association White Paper" (PDF). justhelicopters.com. Retrieved 30 April 2022.

General sources

  • de Voogt, A.J. 2007. Helidrome Architecture. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers.
  • ICAO Annex 14 Aerodrome Standards, Aerodrome Design and Operations
  • ICAO 1995. Heliport Manual. Montreal, Canada: ICAO Publications.
  • Frost, John B. 1996. British helipads. Chester, UK: Appledore Publications.