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How to do a landing site RECE

Updated: May 23, 2023

Helicopters are unique aircraft in that they have the ability to take off and land vertically, making them well-suited for operations in areas where fixed-wing aircraft cannot land. However, in order to safely and successfully land a helicopter off-airfield, it is crucial to conduct a landing site reconnaissance.


A landing site reconnaissance or RECE is the process of evaluating the potential landing site to ensure that it is safe, suitable, and capable of accommodating the helicopter.


In this blog, we will discuss the key steps involved in conducting a landing site rece for a helicopter off-airfield landing.






Step 1: Assess the Site's Suitability


The first step in conducting a landing site reconnaissance is to assess the site's suitability. This involves evaluating the site for potential hazards that may affect the helicopter's ability to land or take off safely. Some factors to consider when assessing site suitability include:

  • Size: The landing site must be large enough to accommodate the helicopter, including its rotor diameter and clearance height. Generally, a minimum clear area of 100 feet by 100 feet is required for most helicopters.

  • Surface: The landing site must have a suitable surface that can support the weight of the helicopter. Ideally, the surface should be firm, level, and free of obstacles such as rocks, debris, and vegetation.

  • Slope: The landing site should be relatively flat, with a maximum slope of 5 degrees. Any slope greater than this can affect the helicopter's ability to land or take off safely.

  • Obstacles: The landing site should be free of obstacles such as trees, power lines, buildings, and other obstructions that could interfere with the helicopter's operations.



Step 2: Identify Potential Hazards


Once the site's suitability has been assessed, the next step is to identify potential hazards that may affect the helicopter's safe operation. Some hazards to look out for include:

  • Power lines: Power lines can pose a significant hazard to helicopters, as they may be difficult to see and can cause serious damage if the helicopter comes into contact with them.

  • Weather conditions: Weather conditions such as high winds, low visibility, and turbulence can affect the helicopter's ability to land or take off safely.

  • Wildlife: Wildlife such as birds and other animals can pose a hazard to helicopters, as they may fly into the rotor blades or interfere with the helicopter's operations.

  • Terrain: The surrounding terrain can also affect the helicopter's ability to land or take off safely. For example, rugged terrain or steep slopes can make it difficult to approach or depart from the landing site.


Step 3: Plan the Approach and Departure


Once the potential hazards have been identified, the next step is to plan the approach and departure. This involves determining the best approach and departure paths, taking into account the terrain, obstacles, and potential hazards.


The approach path should be clear of any obstacles, with a gradual descent that allows the helicopter to slow down and land safely. The departure path should also be clear of obstacles, with a gradual ascent that allows the helicopter to gain altitude and fly away safely.



Step 4: Conduct a Site Survey


Before landing the helicopter, it is important to conduct a site survey to ensure that the landing site is suitable and safe. The site survey should include a visual inspection of the landing site, as well as a review of any maps or charts that may be available.

During the site survey, the pilot should also evaluate the wind conditions, take note of any nearby buildings or structures, and assess the condition of the landing surface.



Step 5: Approach and Landing


Once the site survey has been completed and the approach and departure paths have been planned, it is time to approach and land the helicopter. The pilot should approach the landing site at a slow, controlled speed, and maintain a safe altitude until the landing


In conclusion, conducting a landing site RECE is crucial for ensuring the safety and success of off-airfield landing. By following the 5 steps outlined above, including assessing the site's suitability, identifying potential hazards, planning the approach and departure, conducting a site survey and approaching and landing the helicopter under control, pilots can minimize the risks and ensure a smooth and safe landing. Taking the time to conduct a thorough landing site reconnaissance can help prevent accidents and protect the crew, passengers and equipment.




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