Helicopter Operations (ATC Aspects)

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Helicopter Operations (ATC Aspects)

23RD ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Estoril, Portugal, 26-30 March 1984

WP No. 79

Helicopter Operations (ATC Aspects)


IFATCA ‘83 decided that ‘Helicopter Operations – ATC Aspects’ should be retained on the SC1 work programme 1983-84 in order to monitor international developments in the subject and develop any further policy recommendations which it feels to be necessary.

To assist SC 1 in this task a questionnaire was distributed at IFATCA 83 to obtain information and ideas from Member Associations. This paper discusses the results obtained from the questionnaire (Appendix A) and considers the modification of existing policy (Appendix B) and the formation of new policy. The paper further considers the new guidance material developed by EANPG. The paper also takes account of the points made in IFATCA’s recent input to the HELIOPS Panel.


Twenty-one MA’s submitted replies to the questionnaire and this paper gives an overview of the results obtained. Taking the questions in sequence this paper considers MA’s responses and the effect on existing IFATCA policy.

Identification of Helicopters

1. RT Communications

Existing IFATCA policy (Appendix B para (3)) is satisfactory but should be expanded to cover.

2. Flight Plan Information

a. To develop on internationally agreed system for the self-evident registration markings of helicopters for use as aircraft identification. In some countries in Europe a system of this type is already in use nationally, e.g.

Sweden SE-HAB


b. To include the additional Helicopter category character R for insertion in item 9 of the ICAO Standard Flight Plan for rotary wing aircraft in lieu of the Wake Turbulence category character.

Procedure for Air-Taxiing

Existing IFATCA policy is satisfactory and in general MA’s have reported no particular ATC problems in the control of helicopters air-taxiing. However the effects of the downwash caused by helicopters hovering or air-taxiing require special caution. Guidelines in this aspect have been proposed to ICAO.

Reduction of IFR Separation Minima

Responses to this question indicated a misunderstanding or disagreement with existing policy in that MA’s did not wish to allow a reduction in the present IFR separation minimum. However the present IFATCA policy takes into account the following actors :

  1. This policy is only concerned with reduction in separation minima between helicopters operating in the vicinity of aerodromes and is not intended for helicopters in the en-route phase of flight.
  2. The use of 3nm radar separation between helicopter making instrument approaches at, for example, an approach speed of 60 kts. Produces a landing rate of approximately 20 per hour. By comparison, fixed wing aircraft normally achieve landing rates of approximately 36 per hour.
  3. Reduction of IFR separation minima would apply only to horizontal separation and not to vertical separation.

Procedures for Arriving/Departing Flights

Existing IFATCA policy is satisfactory.

Procedures for the Use of Apron

Existing IFATCA policy is satisfactory.

En-route Operation in High Density Traffic Areas

Most MA’s did not have experience enough in this area to respond.

ICAO Guidance Material on Helicopter Operations Over the High Seas

Although only a few MA’s are involved in operations of this nature, IFATCA has, through its nominated representative on the EANPG BORG sub-group, participated in the development of the guidance material. It is therefore now appropriate for Conference to consider its applicability world-wide.

To conclude

From the analysis of the responses made by MA’s it would appear that existing IFATCA policy is satisfactory, but new and modified policy is needed in some cases to reflect MA’s requirements.

The establishment of new policy covering the identification of Helicopters in flight plans is desirable. Proposed new policy should read “Procedures to be developed for flight Plan data to provide a clear differentiation between fixed- wing and helicopter flights.”

The existing policy on IFR separation minima should be modified to read “ Procedures to be developed to allow reduction in horizontal separation standards between IFR helicopters operating in the vicinity of an aerodrome”.

Conference should endorse the content of the input made by IFATCA to the ICAO HELIOPS Panel.

Conference should also record their agreement, or otherwise with the Guidance Material on Helicopter Operations over the High Seas, for world – wide application.

It is recommended that:

That the modified policy proposed at Para 3.2 of WP 79/84 regarding reduction in Helicopter IFR separation standards be adopted to replace the existing policy statement.

That the new policy proposed at Para 3.3 of WP 79/84 regarding Helicopter identification in Flight Plan data be adopted.

That the content of the input made by IFATCA to the HELIOPS Panel be endorsed.

Last Update: September 20, 2020  

November 30, 2019   595   Jean-Francois Lepage    1984    

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