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Guideline No. 27: Helicopters | Safety Guidelines for the Film and Television Industry in Ontario

  • ISBN: 978-1-4249-9952-1
  • Issued: November 1990
  • Revised: June 2009
  • Content last reviewed: August 2010

Helicopters

Helicopter safety may be adversely affected by changing natural conditions such as wind, air density, altitude/temperature, humidity, and time of day. Manmade conditions such as weight, weight distribution, center of gravity and/or the discharge of pyrotechnics in close proximity when it may disturb airflow around the tail rotor, can also affect the ability of the helicopter to fly. Special precautions should be taken to ensure safety when working in extreme temperatures or terrain.

  1. All Aerial Coordinators and\or Pilots in Command shall possess an authorization pursuant to the appropriate section of the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs). Such authorization is not always required, depending on the location of the intended shoot. Contact Transport Canada General Aviation if unsure whether an authorization is required. Sixty (60) days notice is recommended, if possible.
  2. The Pilot in Command is at all times the final authority over his/her helicopter and shall be in command of his/her flight operations and/or related activities. The Pilot in Command and/or Aerial Coordinator should have the authority to abort any flight operation in the interest of safety. Abort signals should be specified ahead of time.
  3. Communications: The Aerial Coordinator and/or the Pilot in Command will coordinate with the designated production representative and implement a plan for communications between the participants in the air and on the ground. The plan will incorporate the following:
    1. Designated ground contact personnel
    2. Air to ground radios, VHF or FM.
    3. Assignment of discreet frequencies (channels).
    4. Visual signals (e.g. flags specified hand signals, light or flare) that will be used to halt filming in the event of lost communications or inability to utilize radios.
    5. Abort signals, audible and visual, to halt filming in the event of unforeseen circumstances or safety hazards.
  4. At the start of each day’s filming the Aerial Coordinator and/or Pilot in Command and the designated production representative will conduct a safety meeting for the production staff and those persons necessary for filming, including emergency, safety and security personnel.
  5. Note:A subsequent safety meeting may be required as necessary for intended action sequences and/or scenes.

    Safety meetings should be carried out in an area as free of noise and other distractions as possible and attendance should be limited to flight crews, flight crew support staff, parachutists, ground performers (e.g. pyrotechnic teams, announcers, etc.) and key event personnel. Key event personnel are responsible for the air and ground safety and emergency operations for the event. Each participant's attendance at the briefing should be verified by roll call or otherwise and a record retained for submission to Transport Canada Aviation, if requested. Performers who are not briefed should not be permitted to participate in the flight program on that day. All briefings/safety meetings should include the following:

    1. Pertinent items and the special provisions of the Aerial Coordinator and/or Pilot in Command(s) Motion Picture and Television Operations Manual and accompanying Waiver along with any additional provision issued by Transport Canada and, as appropriate, any provisions issued by a FAA Flight Standards District Office.
    2. A weather briefing by a Flight Service Station Specialist or an experienced pilot covering aspects of the weather that may affect the shoot.
    3. Possible risk to personnel that are involved.
    4. Safeguards for personnel and equipment.
    5. Communications, including a discussion of the method(s) of coordinating air traffic and suspending the shoot or recalling a performer by both radio and visual signals.
    6. Emergency procedures, including firefighting or other emergency services equipment available.
    7. Location of boundaries.
    8. Local governmental limitations or restrictions, if any.
  6. A preplanned stunt and/or special effect sequence should not be changed in any way without the authorization of the Aerial Coordinator and/or Pilot in Command. No changes shall be made once the helicopter(s) is/are airborne.
  7. The Aerial Coordinator and/or Pilot in Command should designate one (1) person as the ground safety contact with no other responsibilities. The helicopter support truck operator may be designated as the ground safety contact around the helicopter. This individual should attend any relevant safety meetings for production staff.
  8. If there is a question as to the safety of any aerial filming sequence involving low, over-the-camera shots, a safety meeting should be held between the Aerial Coordinator and/or Pilot in Command and concerned persons as to whether the use of a locked-off camera is necessary.
  9. There should be no smoking within 33 metres (100 feet) of the helicopter or support fuel truck.
  10. Remain at least 17 metres (50 feet) away from the helicopter unless directed by the Aerial Coordinator and/or Pilot in Command or ground safety contact. Under no circumstances should you approach the helicopter without permission from the ground safety contact or the Pilot in Command.
  11. Whether the rotors are turning or not, always approach and leave the helicopter from the front. Prior to your approach of the helicopter:
    1. Make acknowledged eye contact with the pilot.
    2. Proceed to the helicopter only after the pilot has acknowledged your presence and waves you forward.
    3. Never run.
    4. Walk, looking forward at all times.
    5. Never walk downhill towards a helicopter.
    6. Never walk uphill away from a helicopter.
  12. Never walk near, around or under the rear and tail sections of the helicopter, whether it is running or not.
  13. Carry all equipment parallel to the ground when within 17 metres (50 feet) of a helicopter. Do not vertically extend any equipment, (i.e., cameras, lights, or sound boom) into rotor blades, whether it is running or not.
  14. Flight operations closer than 150 metres (500 feet) to persons will include only those persons consenting to be in close proximity to the aircraft and who are directly involved and necessary for the filming.

    The Aerial Coordinator and/or Pilot in Command and the designated security personnel should generally maintain an area perimeter to ensure that no unauthorized persons come within 150 metres (500 feet) of the flight operations. See Transport Canada / Canadian Aviation Regulations Standards (CARS) 623.07 for special considerations.

  15. Personal Protective Equipment should be utilized as required.
  16. Protect eyes as well as equipment when the helicopter is landing and taking off.
  17. Never under any circumstance throw anything such as grip tape, clothing, paper, etc. around the helicopter, whether it is running or not.
  18. Helicopters should remain at least fifty (50) feet away from any animal.
  19. Landing areas and assembly sites should be located at a safe distance from trees, poles, power-lines and other obstructions and should be cleared of debris and, where necessary, wet down. Ensure all equipment is tied down or stored away from the area
  20. Plot plans and graphics will be prepared to locate landing area, intended flight paths, designated emergency landing sites, and locations, as well as types of explosives or squibs.
  21. Do not wear any loose clothing that may blow off, such as hats, when operating near a running helicopter.
  22. Rotor blades and the fuselage can be easily damaged while on the ground. Never push, handle, sit on or in, or lay any objects of any kind on an aircraft without the pilot's knowledge.
  23. If a foreign object falls into or against a helicopter, report it immediately to the pilot or aerial coordinator.
  24. Never allow cast or crew to occupy an aircraft while engines are running or rotors are turning, unless authorized by the Pilot in Command.
  25. When working on location or when utilizing Department of Defense aircraft, local agencies, regional police, fire, park department regulations, or military guidelines may vary from this guideline. The more stringent guidelines should always be in effect. Additional permits may be required for landing or refueling operations.
  26. The production company must notify all cast and crew-members and the front of the call sheet shall contain a statement to the effect that: "An aircraft is being used and will be flown in close proximity to crew and equipment. Any concerns should be brought to the attention of the Production Manager or 1st AD prior to any filming."
  27. All procedures relating to stunts, firearms, pyrotechnics, etc., should be fully observed.
  28. When camerapersons are hanging out of the helicopter with the door off they should be wearing a seat-belt, and safety harness. The camera should also be secured separately from the cameraperson.
  29. In the case of combined vehicle/helicopter stunts, the ground should be wet down only if acceptable to the stunt drivers and the pilot.
  30. When the helicopter is used for transporting goods and materials into or out of difficult locations it must be supervised by the Aerial Coordinator and/or the Pilot in Command with due consideration.
  31. A copy of this guideline should be attached to the call sheet on days that the helicopter is being utilized.

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