While it might seem like 'small, circular concrete structure upon which helicopters land and take-off' is a sufficient description for helipads, the reality is quite to the contrary. In fact, helipads are one of the most meticulously designed structures in all of building, due to the harsh environments they often endure and the loads the must support. Additionally, helipads come in a variety of sizes and can be constructed virtually anywhere they are needed. This is a list of interesting facts about the construction and characteristics of helipads in various industries.

Necessary Air Space Studies

Before constructing helipads, owners must have an airspace study conducted in the area in which they are planning to build. The process begins by filing an application for the study with the FAA, or Federal Aviation Administration. The primary objective of these studies is to ensure that the helipads will not facilitate aircraft that impede the navigability of any adjacent air space.

Their Size

Most helipads are around 60' x 60' to accommodate smaller, lighter helicopters. However, larger aircraft might require landing pads in the neighborhood of 100' x 100', and other areas that serve multiple aircraft might be as large as a few square acres. Regardless of their size, these helipad areas must remain obstacle free at all times for incoming and departing helicopter traffic.

Different Varieties

In general, helipads can be categorized into three main groups: marine helipads, business helipads, and hospital helipads. While each is constructed to similar specifications, not all types are designed for the same workloads and conditions. For instance, hospital helipads are often built on the roof or ground level of the hospital, and are always as close to the structure as building regulations will permit. Since hospital helipads are responsible for facilitating the take-off and landing of donor organs and critically injured patients, having immediate access to the treatment facilities is imperative. 

Marine helipads, by comparison, are primarily built for durability. The saltwater conditions and high winds that oil rigs and aircraft carriers sustain can wreak havoc on steel and concrete helipads. For this reason, marine helipads are most often built using aluminum to avoid the corrosion of conditions at sea. The aluminum construction also affords significant weight reduction when compared to other materials. This is important because excessive weight unevenly distributed across an oil rig, for instance, can destabilize the entire structure.

Fire Extinguishing

Helipads can also be outfitted with fire sprinkler systems that emerge from the landing deck. While these are more common on marine helipads, they are occasionally installed in rooftop and business helipads as well. If and when an aircraft catches fire, the sprinklers eject and disperse helical waves of water until the flames are extinguished. 

Clearly, not only are helipads constructed to accommodate versatile working conditions, but they are also built with considerations of safety, durability, and practicality. For more information, visit Vertical Aeronautics Intl.