Question for you European pilots.... When flying into an airport VFR, are you sequenced with fixed wing. At 2 airports here in So Cal, we're sequenced with fixed wing, which is a pain at times. The other airport(KVNY) I fly out of, we're not sequenced. We're cleared to takeoff from the taxiway, or cleared to land by crossing midfield and make your turn accordingly to the taxiway on the field. I find that being sequenced is a bit overkill, as pilots we're usually much more familiar with the surrounding landmarks and the area in general. I've asked to expedite direct to the pad, so I'm not stuck behind a C-152/172 on final, and it's usually denied. At VNY, it not uncommon to be on final to the taxiway with either a G-IV on final to the parallel runway, and a C-152 on takeoff next to you or below/above you. At VNY they have side by side parallel runways, so our entry point not uncommon to cross midfield at 1300 feet, FW pattern is 1800 feet.
Most airfields in the UK that have regular helicopter traffic have different circuit patterns for helicopters and planks. Heli's often operate from FATO's or designated heli-training areas that are suitable separated form the main runways to allow simultaneous approaches, circuits and departures. I'n many cases fixed wing would be doing some form of overhead join, and helicopters usually low-level, more direct joins.
The arrival or departure of heavier aircraft will sometimes disrupt us to some extent due to wake-turbulence, but often smaller aircraft can operate to different areas of the field and simultaneously. It changes between airfields obviously but I very rarely find myself on final behind or in front of a fixed wing using the same approach area. In fact I can't clearly remember the last time.
At my homebase they try to keep you away from the runways whenever possible. We've got two helipads and a damn long taxiway we normally use for T/O and landing. In fact they confuse me whenever they say "Line up rwy 33 and wait" (3666 m of asphalt). However, sometimes they forget that student pilots don't like tailwind landings at 30 + knots.
As you have gathered, it is pretty random really. Some airfields treat you exactly the same as a plank and insist on you following all plank procedures. Many moons ago, I recall being forced to fly a full circuit to join together with a couple of 737s up my chuff at a regional "international" airport, which only had one runway. It was blowing 30+ kts down the runway, so ground based tortoises were travelling faster than me in an R22! Much more sensible to direct me to an airfield aiming point well clear of the active and come in at 90 degrees to the runway, which lots of other airfields do.
It seems to be mainly down to the SATCO or other head ATC waller. If he was brought up (ATC wise) coordinating FW and RW, his plan for traffic at the airfield deals with both separately. Its also down to where the airfield head honcho thinks he wants to get his trade from. As they get ideas above their station (so to speak) airfields try and squeeze GA out. Because we are odd-ball, we don't fit.
Thanks for replies Gents! It's becoming more and more apparent that they want helicopters to fly a circuit with FW at a lot of US GA airports. I personally don't agree, it just leads to other problems! Here locally...ATC diverted a FW and a R22 out over the ocean to 2Kagl. Both came within 200 feet laterally from each other whilst with ATC! I agree that 90 degree approach to the field, and 500 feet lower than FW traffic is the best bet.
We're in a fight currently here in SoCal! Politicians want us to fly at altitude minimums, and wants the FAA to police it as well. They're wanting a 1500 agl minimum at all times for helicopters. We have a few pilots who like to buzz the Hollywood sign, and they ruin it for ALL of us! 1500agl is not doable, especially when you're competing with FW traffic outside any controlled airspace. Nothing like having a 172 overtake you along the beach in Malibu at 400 agl...and not on frequency! GOOD TIMES! Cheers Rob
As you have gathered, it is pretty random really. Some airfields treat you exactly the same as a plank and insist on you following all plank procedures. Many moons ago, I recall being forced to fly a full circuit to join together with a couple of 737s up my chuff at a regional "international" airport, which only had one runway.
I've no objections to flying any pattern provided they don't try to send me off into IMC for the ILS after holding me outside for twenty minutes after asking for a VFR join (think fuel reserves here, ATCOs)... but there's no pleasing some. Whilst being vectored in to an international airport for the ILS under IFR I was told to expedite my ILS due to following jet traffic. So I did.
Next thing, they directed me to slow down for spacing as I was catching up the Boeing airliner ahead.
This thread reminds me of two flights. The first was being put in to a circuit with planks at an international airport with a single runway. The tone of the controllers voice changed when they soon realized that we were being closed down by easy jet. Thankfully with an expedite across the grass to the taxiway there were no go arounds.
The other was doing a LHR crossing and hearing the callsign of the AAC. Looking down in the queue of departing 09L traffic sitting in the hover with a lot of planks in front and behind was a little green lynx. One of those I wish I had a camera moment. Just very bizarre.
In Australia up until about 1990 all helicopters had to comply with fixed with traffic procedures. I well remember operating in and out of Sydney International from the main runway in my Jetranger . Eventually commonsense prevailed and we copied the FAA requirements . It's sensible for rotary wing traffic to avoid fixed wing procedures where practical.
Great - you were one of the few using commonsense -as there were no separate helicopter rules in 1967 for operations at airports.
In 1979 a pilot could sit for 20 minutes at the Darling Harbor pad waiting for a clearance from Sydney Approach to depart to the west because the regs required VFR aircraft in primary control zones to be separated as if the pilots were blind!
It was only after my best selling book. "Two Years in the Aviation Hall of Doom" that this was fixed after fierce resistance to change.
I don't know about 1967, but the 80's and 90's had a less than co-operative tower at Sydney (Mascot) whilst the rest of the country found helicopters handled as.... well, helicopters!
Tullamarine was always excellent, with overflight between FW departures and arrivals and handling direct to one of three helipads around the taxiways, clear of runway traffic. For many years I had a contract with ~10 movements a day, 3 days a week, with never a delay in and around the RPT ops.
GAAP always handled helicopters separately, Moorabbin, Essendon, Bankstown, Archerfield et al had no issues keeping helicopters away from fixed wing/runway traffic.
Sydney Mascot, however, was a nightmare: highlighted when we operated to and from RAAF Richmond ferrying from Mascot during the bi-Centenial in 1988. On one occasion I called for a formation departure for three of us, to try to expedite the queue of 10 helicopters waiting. Point blank refused by Mascot Twr as formations were not allowed without CASA approval in Sydney airspace
John I remember that day well. I had to pick up Roz Kelly, the current Minister at the time. We sat on the ground with the rotor turning for over half an hour awaiting a clearance as there were no proper ATC procedures for helicopters. Eventually got away to Richmond and I suggested she go back by car. I think she did.
It all started after a mid air at Bankstown where the ATCs were given some of the blame. This resulted in VFR traffic at Sydney being separated using IFR type separation standards. Took years to fix.
Dick, all thanks to you for fighting for us to fly around Sydney without (too) many ridiculous regulations.
On another note, I have not seen any discussion regarding the change to YSBK landing procedures ?
When flying into YSBK in the 11 direction, intending to visit either Bankstown Helis or Heliflite, we used to land at the northern windsock, and jump across Whisky. Sorry, not anymore ! Departing from BK in the 29 direction we used to depart (if at the same location) from the northern windsock...again, SORRY not allowed.
We can only land at the main pad or western pad. I call it FNR (for no reason). No doubt there is a reason, however I can't see why CASA (according to the tower) changed this long used procedure ?
Also, who wants low hours pilots (BK Heli students) taxiing up and down the airport DOWN WIND, just to get to a "helipad" ? Obviously whoever made this rule thinks helis need a runway or kilometres to take off !
Also, SORRY, no "air transit" either (I requested this in an attempt to quickly get to the "approved" take off point). When I asked why ?, "Sorry, CASA."
Older guys tell me that in Portugal helicopter pilots used to beconsidered as cowboys by ATC and plank drivers.
I don't get that feeling now, but we do get some controllers that ask usto do direct approaches (and take-offs) to (or from) an assigned spot in anairfield.
So it gets me thinking that sometimes the very same flexibility thatmight give you a bad rep ends up being very useful to others (ATC). Thisdepends a lot on whether it's convenient for them, or for us, or if they aremore experienced or are having a bit of a lull in traffic (in large airfields -in small ones you almost always follow the standard approach or some parallel approachto an apron).
To the extent that sometimes they get a bit carried away into thinkingthat we can safely drop our IAS to near zero for the sake of allowing adeparture from other traffic, usually planks as well...
But as often as I can and if I feel it will make life easier for thecontroller I offer to land in a spot at their convenience. I rather enjoy itactually… maybe it has something to do with being a helicopter pilot…
Yes, I have been told the same thing. Changes were made due to a woman who repeatedly phoned the tower to complain if a helicopter landed and was “too low” (whatever that is ?) over her house. Apparently she was complaining for ages and won.
This brings into discussion a problem we have in Australian politics, where the views of the minority are pushed onto the majority.
Fair go, BK is an AIRPORT, and planes and helis use it as such ! It’s been there a while too.
I am sure your Citation makes a bit more noise (I know it does) that a Bell 206 on final. Easier to inconvenience the entire BK helicopter community to shut up one complainer. CASA would no doubt stop you landing MIF on 11 centre if they could, but it’s a little hard to tell you to land that in the middle of the field (main pad) isn’t it ?
I’m lucky, as I only go in and out of there occasionally, but what about the poor guys that have to follow the new rules every time they do a 30 minute harbour scenic ?