View Full Version : Helicopter Marshalling Signals

Tony Chambers
13th Apr 2005, 22:06
I have a debate to raise.
Should civilian and military helicopter marshalling signals be the same.

I.E. there is no civil signal for a spot turn and i had a debate with a ground operater about the signal to move the helicopter sideways i used the verions in cap637 but some pilots and groundcrew use the military version, both completley different.
Which would you describe as correct?
Thanks for any feedback :ok:

15th Apr 2005, 14:27

In my opinion if you are a civilian operator you should be using civilian signalling.

"They say the early bird catches the worm, but it is the second mouse who gets the cheese!"

md 600 driver
15th Apr 2005, 16:28
do you know who tony chambers is or do i know him ?

Tony Chambers
15th Apr 2005, 21:10
i agree that civilian operators should use civilian signals and military use military signals.
I raise this topic because what should be used if say a civilian operator for what ever reason visits a military helipad or military operator visits a civilian helipad.
I believe the signals should be uniformal across the board.

MD600 im not sure if you do know me, nor me know you. :D

Thomas coupling
16th Apr 2005, 00:13
Tony, if you dont know who he is and he might not know you, who are you to assume that he might not know if you know him?

And use somebody else's bloody initials:D

6th Aug 2005, 12:54
Hi all,
New to PPRuNe,

I am not a pilot, however I am researching helicopter marshalling signals for a project we have in my company.

I have read some official aviation documents and I am familiar with civilian marshalling signals. However I am having difficulty differantiating betweens signals which apply when the helicopter is on the ground and signals which apply when the helicopter is in the air.

For example "move horizontally" and "ahead" and "move backwards". Would these signals are exclusively used when the helicopter is in the air ?

I would assume that a helicopter pilot would not need these signals when he is landing to a easy landing spot at an airport. So in which kind of landing would those signals are commonly used (landing on shipdecks ?) ?

I am sorry for asking these probably very obvious questions, I don't really hesitate to read thick docs, but google didn't help me a lot about this kind of "real world" details.

Thanks in advance,


Farmer 1
6th Aug 2005, 14:04
Marshalling signals to a helicopter on the ground have the same meanings as those to an aeroplane, provided the helicopter has wheels, of course. It is only in the hover, as far as I know, that a helicopter can manoeuvre backwards. Also in the hover, a signal to move sideways means to do so without a turn.

At an airport it is often very difficult to identify the intended landing spot, so marshalling might be required, again for the same reason as for an aeroplane. Even in the hover, the pilot is relatively close to the ground, and taking the hands off the controls to look at airport plates is not really an option.

I remember flying into Liverpool on a number of occasions. (I forget what offence I had committed.) We had one designated helicopter landing spot, but the ground staff insisted we wait for them to turn up and marshal us to it, even when the apron was otherwise empty. Apparently to do otherwise was dangerous. Then they might marshal an aircraft directly behind us, still with our rotors turning, and let passengers disembark. Apparently that was safe.

Away from the airport, marshallers are often used for underslung load operations - depends on the job and the circumstances.

No idea what your project is, of course, but a few words of advice: Away from airports and professional marshallers, practically everybody misinterprets the "Move ahead" signal when dealing with helicopters. They think it means "Come forward", i.e. "Towards me". So, when they are standing facing the starboard side of the helicopter, for example, if they want me to move to the right, towards them, they signal "Move ahead". They then get confused and sometimes very uppity when I obey their signal and move ahead. It takes a bit of thinking about, sometimes.

One more thing: the marshaller must never lose sight of the pilot's eye. If he does, it means the pilot cannot see him, and he's no use to anybody. It often means a fair bit of running about. Good luck.

6th Aug 2005, 15:39
Thanks a lot Farmer1.

I have some more questions if you don't mind.

When the pilot is given a move signal ( move-> ahead, backward, upward, downward, sideways), would the pilot fly the helicopter until a stop signal from the marshaller comes ? (This might sound like obvious to you, but I haven't found a written procedure.)

I assume that when the helicopter pilot approaches for landing, there is a certain altitude where the pilot would prefer to hover (so that he has eye-contact with the marshaller and is a safe altitude). If my assumption is correct, what would be such an altitude ?

P.S.: My department (part of a visual simulation company) is now checking, if we could build a desktop marshalling simulator using the technologies we have inhouse. I am trying to understand the basic requirements of such a simulation software.

Thanks again.


Farmer 1
6th Aug 2005, 16:18
When the marshaller wants the helicopter to stop, or hover, he gives the Hover signal.

Hovering height (not altitude) is normally decided by the pilot, and is typically four to six feet wheel/skid height. If the marshaller wants a higher hover for some reason, he gives the appropriate signal. It's no big issue.

I must stress the precise positions and orientation of hands, in particular, are most important, much more so than when marshalling aeroplanes. It is very easy to confuse the signals for moving forwards, backwards, and upwards, if the marshaller is not very good.

My advice is to find a pilot as pedantic as I am, if you can, and ask him before the bar fills up too much.

6th Aug 2005, 18:43
In my experience in Africa, where marshallers and helicopters mix, chaos usually reigns anyway.

The marshallers invariably try to position non wheeled helicopters as aeroplanes and get most upset when we refuse to try to hover downwind at MAUW under the wing of a Russian transport aircraft, half on and half off the apron, next to the rubbish bins full of easily airborne plastic bags and large pieces of cardboard.

Most of the time they stand there waving frantically to cut engines for the whole two minute idle time a 407 needs before shut down (we are not taxiing at a low power setting but usually near to maximum power).

To give them their due, when they come angrily over and berate you, they usually listen to the explanation and you can see understanding dawning. Doesn't stop them doing the same thing next time though...

Tony Chambers
8th Aug 2005, 10:56
Helicopter marshalling signals can not be understood from any diagram, the only way to understand marshalling is to actually see it in action and then practice the signals. I like the concept of a simulator and i believe the RAF have one but i am looking to release a helicopter marshalling video soon.

8th Aug 2005, 13:40
You may find this of some interest..........

8th Aug 2005, 15:07
Thanks Simon. I am aware of this page, actually it was one of the two documents which I have found on the internet.

8th Aug 2005, 21:56
This may help also:

9th Aug 2005, 08:24
It is quite an important of the marshaller training, we shall propose this to be a standard.

10th Aug 2005, 11:58
One of the senior instructors at Heli West in WA wrote a Helicopter Landing Officers (now an industry standard in some countries) course primarily for off shore operations, but it will cover what you're looking for. They are at www.helitraining.com.au

Give him a shout I'm sure he'll be able to assist.

23rd Feb 2010, 17:18
This is for helicopter pilots only.

If you were being marshalled in the hover and you were given either of these signals:



Would they mean anything to you?

I ask because they are totally different to what I was taught some years ago, and they are not used by the UK Military.

I'd be grateful for your thoughts, as these signals are in CAP637 - so they are official - but I need to know if they are taught to UK civil helicopter pilots. This info is required for groundcrew training course purposes.


west lakes
23rd Feb 2010, 17:23
I used the top one with a private pilot 2 years ago, he fully understood and complied.

Simarly the bottom one seems understood by ppls both fixed wing and rotary

23rd Feb 2010, 19:20
Thanks for that westlakes.

Anyway, the point of my original questionis that some old marshalling signals have changed from what they were, and I'd like to know how many people who need to know them actually do.

There's little point in teaching 'official' signals if the majority don't recognise them, particularly in a civil differences course to military personnel.

If the resonse to my questions is a resounding 'huh?', I will take great pleasure in telling the CAA (fat lot of good that'll do). If, however it reveals that I'm living in the stone age, I'll be happy to amend the course content.

We do, of course, make reference to these two 'irregular' signals in the course but warn the candidates that many pilots won't know them.

Zero G
24th Feb 2010, 07:40


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