Establish a Helicopter Landing Zone

While typically reserved for trained personnel that understand the standards to secure a safe landing zone for helicopters, there may come a point in time when you will have to either help establish a helicopter landing zone or in worst case scenarios, establish one yourself. While the chances are extremely slim that you will be involved in a situation that will ultimately require a landing zone for a helicopter, it is better to know and not need it than need it and not know it.

If tasked with securing a helicopter landing zone, you need to select a position that meets the following requirements:

  • During the day, the landing zone should be 100 feet by 100 feet.
  • At night or in limted visibility, the landing zone should be 125 feet by 125 feet.
  • The landing zone should be free of debris, vehicles, people, animals, etc..
  • When selecting a site, avoid locations with material that will kick up easily such as areas with loose dirt, powdered snow and sand.
  • The landing zone should be clearly marked. (Read more about marking the landing zone below)
  • The landing zone should be as level as possible. No more than a 6 degree grade is recommended.

Marking the landing zone:

Daylight – Some example of ways to mark landing zones during daylight:

  • Mark the corners of thelanding zone with bright colored material such as clothing or material that contrasts with the environment. Ensure that the material is secure so that it does not move when the helicopter approaches. Use heavy rocks or other heavy items to secure the material to the ground.
  • Warning triangles or road cones if they are available.


Hours of darkness or limited visibility –

  • Use flashlights or chemical lights (chemlights).
  • Flares may be used, but should be used with caution due to fire hazards.
  • Use lights from vehicles parked outside the corners of the landing zone and all facing towards the center of the landing zone to illumiate the landing zone and designate a boundary for the landing zone.
  • Lasers can be used to mark a landing zone, but should never be pointed at the helicopter.
  • Turn off all non-essential lights. the pilots will likely be using night vision devices.

Communicating with the pilot:

  • You need to ensure that the pilot is aware of an obstacles on or near the landing zone. Obstacles could be a tree stump that just cannot be avoided in the selection of a landing zone and powerlines and other wires nearby. It is almost impossible to spot most wires from the air, so it is very important to ensure that the pilot knows of any wires nearby.
  • The pilot will need to know which direction the wind is blowing. To find the direction of the wind, hang a loose pieces of material or string and determine the direction by which way the string blows.
  • Let the pilot know when the helicopter is in sight.

Security of the landing zone site:

  • Keep all non-essential personnal al least 200 feet from the landing zone.
  • Do not allow vehicle movement within the landing zone.

How to approach a helicopter:

  • Do not approach until the pilot or member of the crew instructs that it is safe to do so.
  • Never approach a helicopter from the rear.
  • Approaching and departing a helicopter should be done forward of the cabin in full view of the pilot.
  • Remove all headgear such as hats, dew rags, etc..
  • Keep your head down.
  • Never lift anything above your head.

Departing a helicopter:

  • Check for loose or forgotten equipment
  • Keep your head down.
  • Never lift anything above your head.

Information that may be requested by the pilot or agency providing the services:

  • Number of patients
  • Adult or Child and Severity
  • Call back number and point of contact
  • Local weather conditions
  • Weight of the patient(s)
  • Latitude and Longitude and any landmarks in the area.
  • Is this a hoist?