Appendix J: Helicopter Protocols
Multiple helicopters are available for rescues in the Tahoe area. These generally fall into two categories: rescue helicopters and medical evacuation helicopters. Rescue helicopters are typically cross-purposed with law enforcement, carry a flight medic, and are capable of short- and long-line rescues. Medical evacuation helicopters carry a Critical Care nurse with a medical control, and typically have greater requirements for landing zones than rescue helicopters.
The patrol has pre-designated several landing zones which are suitable for landing either kind of helicopter. Patrollers will often have to bring the patient to the helicopter landing area in a sled. Each area we patrol has one or more possible landing sites, and patrollers must learn the location of each site. The Patrol Manual appendix on Evacuation Plans lists several potential helicopter landing zones.
Pilots will choose their own landing spot in the landing site area, but it is helpful to indicate wind direction by standing upwind and to the side of the landing spot. Wind direction is indicated with smoke flares or streamers.
Patrol radios are equipped to communicate on Whitefire 3 for ground-to-aircraft communication. Note that whitefire-3 is not repeated and therefore useful only for line-of-sight communications with the aircraft.
Landing Zone (LZ) Criteria • 75 x 75 daylight (may be willing to go to 60 x 60) • 100 x 100 night • Level with a firm surface • Clear of sand, gravel and other debris • No power lines, trees, poles, buildings, or other overhead obstructions near or in the area; • No vehicles or people within the zone • Avoid sloped areas (10% maximum) • If snow is deep it should be ski packed, or, if there is time, boot packed. Inform pilot of any packing and direct to packed area
Marking the Landing Zone (LZ) • Orange smoke flares during daylight operations • Headlamps and flashing red Pelican lights at night (mark LZ corners at night) • Markings such as barrier tape, flag tape, etc. should not be used LZ Coordinator Responsibilities • Command and secure the LZ • Establish radio contact with aircraft • Assist pilot in locating the LZ • Keep all bystanders 100' away form the LZ • Keep everyone away from the tail rotor • Contact pilot after landing to determine any safety issues
General Patient Transfer Procedures
Usually, a patient will be loaded by the personnel aboard the helicopter, and patrollers will not have to approach the helicopter. In such cases, the primary consideration is to have a clearly marked landing site, and to keep the patient a sufficient distance from the landing site to assure patient safety and comfort during the landing. Often the helicopter will be able to provide medical supplies, however it is in the patients best interests to be fully packaged and ready for transport before the helicopter arrives.
General Helicopter Safety
If it becomes necessary for you to approach a "live" helicopter, i.e., one with a moving rotor, you must keep the following rules in mind:
- Obey any and all instructions from the pilot
- Before approaching a helicopter make sure the pilot has the ship down on the landing area the way he or she wants it, and has eased the power (you will hear a noticeable change in engine pitch);
- Approach (or leave) the helicopter only at an angle visible to the pilot, and always keep your eyes on the pilot (not on the ground or the helicopter door);
- Approach the helicopter only from the front or side (preferably the side), and never past a line perpendicular to the door (i.e., stay away from the tail);
- When approaching, stay low (squat) to maximize head/rotor clearance, remembering that the rotor blades dip closer to the ground as the power decreases;
- Don't stand on the skids, as the pilot might have to take off suddenly;
- Never approach the helicopter from an uphill position because the rotors will be too close to the ground. Do not walk uphill when leaving the helicopter. Stay low at all times.
Helicopter Safety • Approach and depart the aircraft from the side only • Never walk around the tail rotor • Shield your eyes from rotorwash during landing and takeoff • Do not carry anything above your head • Do not approach the helicopter while the blades are turning unless instructed by the helicopter crew • Do not run towards the aircraft, approach in a calm and slow manner • No smoking anywhere in the vicinity of the aircraft • The pilot and/or medical crew control activity around the aircraft • Secure loose items such as hats, clothing, stretcher sheets, and any other object light enough to be blown into the rotor blades Tahoe Backcountry Ski Patrol Manual