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How to safely land a helicopter off airfield

Updated: May 23, 2023

Landing a helicopter off site can be a challenging yet necessary aspect of helicopter operations. Whether you're conducting search and rescue missions, utility work, or executive transport, the ability to land safely in unprepared areas is essential. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind when landing off site in helicopters:

Planning and preparation:

Before landing off site, it's important to plan and prepare for the mission. This includes conducting a risk assessment, identifying potential landing sites, and preparing for emergency procedures. Make sure you have all the necessary equipment and resources, such as maps, communication devices, and emergency gear.

Landing site identification:

When selecting a landing site, consider the size, shape, and slope of the area. Look for a site that is free of obstacles and debris, has a level surface, and is large enough to accommodate the helicopter. Make sure the site is suitable for the type of helicopter you're flying and the purpose of the mission.

Landing site recce:

Conduct a thorough survey of the landing site and surrounding area. Look for any potential hazards such as wires, trees, or uneven terrain. Take note of the wind direction and speed, and plan your approach accordingly.

Here are the 5 steps for conducting a landing site reconnaissance for a helicopter off-airfield landing:

  1. Assess the site's suitability, including size, surface, slope, and obstacles.

  2. Identify potential hazards, such as power lines, weather conditions, wildlife, and terrain.

  3. Plan the approach and departure, taking into account the terrain, obstacles, and potential hazards.

  4. Conduct a site survey, including a visual inspection of the landing site, a review of maps or charts, and evaluation of wind conditions.

  5. Approach and land the helicopter slowly and under control, while maintaining a safe altitude until the landing.

Types of approach:

There are several types of approaches that can be used when landing off site. These include the normal approach, the steep approach, and the running landing. Each approach has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it's important to choose the one that is best suited for the landing site conditions.

Maneuvering in the landing site:

Once you have landed, it's important to maneuver the helicopter carefully in the landing site. Be aware of any obstacles or hazards, and take your time when moving the helicopter. If necessary, use a ground guide to help you maneuver the helicopter safely.


When departing from the landing site, take note of any changes in weather conditions or terrain. Use caution when taking off, and be prepared to abort the takeoff if necessary. Follow all applicable safety procedures and guidelines.

Pilot errors:

Landing off site can be challenging, and even experienced pilots can make mistakes. Common errors include misjudging the landing site, approaching too fast or too steep, and failing to account for wind conditions. Be aware of these potential errors and take steps to mitigate them.

Landing off site in helicopters can be a challenging yet rewarding aspect of helicopter operations. By following these key considerations and prioritizing safety, helicopter pilots can conduct successful off-site landings and ensure the safety of themselves and their passengers.

Techniques for LS recce including the 5 ‘S’ elements and the conduct of power checks are described in HE 3 Off Airfield Landing Site Operations.

Keep learning. Fly safe!

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