Helicopter safety

Buffeted by rotor wash and deafened by noise, it is easy to fluster when approaching, or disembarking from a helicopter. Remain calm. Wait for the pilot to wave you to move in and then approach the helicopter from the front, or downhill side – never venture to the tail. In steep country, take care not to walk uphill into the main rotor when exiting. Do not open, or close helicopter doors unless expressly directed to do so by the pilot. The doors close gently and must not be slammed.

  • Ensure there are no fires, tents, or loose objects within 100 metres of the landing site,
  • Hats should be stowed,
  • Light items must be strapped to heavy items,
  • Crampons and ice-axes should be inside packs, or carried separately,
  • Carry items no higher than waist high,
  • Stoop, as the rotors can dip due to wind gusts.


Landing site

While a skilled pilot can land, or hover almost anywhere, pilots prefer a clear, reasonably flat and firm area 30 metres across with no dead, standing trees in the immediate vicinity. For night landings, a 50 metres clearing is preferable. Be aware that in snow, the rotor wash will blow up ice and snow as the helicopter lands, which will obstruct visibility and tear at your eyes and face: in these conditions it’s impossible to look at the helicopter, unless wearing goggles, at least until the machine powers down.

Indicate the wind direction by one person standing on the upwind edge of the landing site, with their back to the wind and arms outstretched to the front. This is also the best place for the group to wait for the helicopter to arrive.

Winch and rescue net

A clear gap in the canopy overhead is needed, with the local canopy height less than 20 metres, which is the safe winch height. There should be no tall trees within 30 metres. Do not touch a strop from a hovering helicopter until it has first touched the ground to discharge any static electricity.

It is useful to have a compass out so that if you have radio contact with the pilot, you can guide him to you with compass directions.