If you have ever flown over downtown LA, you have seen the sea of helipads that dot the landscape. As pilots, we often dream of taking off and landing from these buildings. The idea of running our daily errands in a helicopter like we would a car is appealing, but the reality is that few helicopter pilots will ever get the chance to land on top of a high-rise building. Recreational pilots will likely never get the chance to even practice in a crowded city center where most roof top helipads exist. Crowded urban areas are dangerous training grounds and not well suited for single engine helicopter training, but this doesn’t meant that instructors cannot prepare their students for rooftop operations.
Flight instructors can safely emulate rooftop landings and takeoffs using any pinnacle. Rooftop heliports are nothing more that man-made pinnacles. A hilltop or any elevated surface can be used to duplicate similar conditions. When instructing students, have them imagine the lower ground to be a crowded city center. They must practice gaining both altitude and speed at the same time. The natural reaction for a pilot if to dive off the side of the pinnacle to gain speed, but this doesn’t work in a urban area. There would be other buildings to deal with and the goal must be to gain altitude while moving the helicopter away from the city center.
Helicopter flight training cannot always occur in the ideal environment.. We must work with the geography we are provided, but it is also important for flight instructors to teach there students to confront all environments that they may encounter. Remember, students will go on to leave the environment in which they train and so it is important to teach them how to operate safely under every condition they may encounter.
Casey Ryan Richards