The title says it all. In particular, I'm wondering what the differences are in reference to:

  • Takeoffs and landing - can rotorcraft be cleared to take-off / land directly from / to the helipad?
  • When rotorcraft want to head VFR to a location, are they treated like normal fixed wing aircraft (e.g. given an altitude and / or heading restriction)?
  • In fixed-wing IFR, aircraft are sometimes put into a holding pattern. If a rotorcraft is asked to hold, is it legal for them to hover at whatever location they want?
  • I think that helicopters are sometimes asked to surface taxi / hover taxi / air taxi at airports to keep everything in order.

Feel free to add any other differences between ATC interactions between rotorcraft and fixed-wing I might have missed.


1 Answer 1


A helicopter can be cleared to depart from any position on an airfield, however there are a lot of considerations that would go into that.

There is no regulation in the US, and I'm almost certain there isn't an ICAO SARP that states a rotary winged aircraft must depart from a designated position on the airfield. Based on local conditions, volume & types of air traffic, and how familiar controllers are with handling a helicopter, there may be some localized procedures, but nothing regulatory.

As far as hovering, there are no prohibitions aside from local airfield procedures. If given a hold during an IFR flight, the rotary wing pilot will fly it in the same fashion as a fixed wing aircraft. To hover in a specific spot for an extended period of time at altitude of not practical due to lack of visual cues needed to hover. Some have a system of Auto-Hover, but that's generally used for extended hovering close to the ground.

Even if it were desired, in many cases it wouldn't be possible. Hovering requires a significantly higher amount of power when done so outside-of-ground-effect (OGE), which is a key metric you need to understand prior to every flight based on that day's conditions and how heavy you are. The extra power required burdens more gas, and in many cases requires a good percentage of the pilots available attention.

If burning the extra gas isn't enough, most civilian rotary-wing aircraft are not equipped with the power needed. Even those military helicopters with two engines (think UH-60 Blackhawk) are limited at higher attitudes.

I think that was all the questions.

  • $\begingroup$ So what you are saying is that many civilian helicopters (say a Robinson R22) do not have enough engine power to hover outside of ground effect? I thought that the ability of hovering "anywhere" was the whole definition of a helicopter. $\endgroup$
    – MadMarky
    Commented May 30, 2018 at 12:32
  • $\begingroup$ Could you please carefully re-read your post and fix all the auto-correct-induced typos? $\endgroup$ Commented May 30, 2018 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ MadMarky, helicopters greatest capability is vertical takeoff and landing. Hovering is second to that, especially as altitude. $\endgroup$
    – BigNutz
    Commented May 31, 2018 at 13:30

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