Helicopter operations and landing sites work differently to airstrips and aerodromes (airports) used by fixed wing aircraft.
This is because of the operational capability and flexibility of helicopters. This leads to helicopters having different performance standards – things like how much space they need, the visibility they need, their speed, and how well the helicopter itself can manoeuvre and avoid obstacles.
Different helicopters and what they can do also varies. Depending on what they are doing, a helicopter operating on an air transport or medical transport operation will from 03 December 2023 operate in a certain 'performance class'.
Regulations of the landing site
Helicopter landing sites located off a certified aerodrome (airport) are not regulated. The property owner isn’t obligated to meet any regulations or standards under aviation safety regulations.
To support safety, CASA provides guidance for planning, designing and operation of helicopter landing sites.
This comes in the form of two advisory circulars which provide general guidance but are not legislative requirements.
Regulations for helicopter landings and take-offs
There are rules in place that set out the requirements the pilot-in-command and operator must follow.
These are covered under Part 91 (general operating and flight rules) and Part 133 (Australian air transport operations - rotorcraft) of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations. Part 133 includes the regulatory framework for medical transport operations, such as medical retrievals.
Following significant consultation with industry, the Part 91 and 133 regulations were made (and published) in December 2018 with supplementary regulations (called manual of standards) published in December 2020.
The majority of the new operational requirements came into effect on 2 December 2021, although some provisions have a delayed commencement to give operators sufficient time to transition to the new requirements.
The requirements relating to performance class operations (essentially the requirements for a helicopter to be able to safety land or continue a flight in the event of a critical engine failure) will come into effect on 2 December 2023.
Performance class operations
Medical transport operations will operate to a minimum category of performance called 'Performance Class 2 with exposure'. For added flexibility, they may also use performance class 1 or performance class 2, if the operator considers this is necessary for the operational requirements.
'Performance Class 2 with exposure' will be possible from 03 December 2023 with specific approval from CASA. The approval is specific to the operator and the type and model of helicopter. It is not specific to a location.
Pilot and operator obligations
Regulations that came into effect in December 2021 require an operator and the pilot-in-command to consider all circumstances associated with safely taking off or landing at a place prior to doing so.
We understand that the helicopter operator has chosen to stop operating at OG HLS due to a range of safety risks they identified.
We support operators making sound decisions based on risk. This is the intention of the new suite of flight operations regulations.