Helicopter Ground Handling Signals

I got busy. The first few weeks of this month I was in San Diego for work, and had the chance to fly with BoatPix again. I had the video camera with me again, and have about 10 hours of video that I’m sorting through. In the meantime though, I thought I’d post a short clip of our departure from KMYF. After we fueled up, the FBO attendant parked his truck, grabbed his batons, and took up station in front of us. Hand signals for directing traffic on the ground wasn’t something I’d ever studied, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. In this case, it was pretty straightforward–when he saw that we were ready to pick up, he “cleared” us to alight, then directed us to the right away from the parked traffic. I say “cleared” because we were at a towered airport and communicating with the tower. For the most part, it was nice to have another set of eyes since we were parked in the middle of the transient area, with an active movement area behind us.

Of the 5 airports that we worked out of, 4 of them had personnel on the ramp to direct traffic into parking spaces (the exception was KTOA, which didn’t have much traffic at all, and no jet traffic that we saw). The BoatPix CFI that I was flying with had visited most of these airports before and already had an out-of-the-way parking spot for our little Mariner. But the FBO’s ground handlers directed the jets and larger helicopters where they wanted them. The AIM (section 4-3-25) has a couple of pages on the hand signals, but–given that the first 2 figures show positioning of a signalman relative to an airliner–this isn’t something that garnered much attention during ground school. In addition, none of the signals covered in the AIM seem particularly important for helicopter operations. That said, the National Wildfire Coordinating Group has a guide to hand signals for helicopter ground operations.

This short video is just a prop for this post–the signalman basically tells us to lift up and not fly over anything that we wouldn’t have flown over anyway. I let the video run for another 30 seconds so you can see the Skycrane parked on the ramp. Check back over the next couple of weeks…now that I’m getting to fly some, I’ll have some video of the me learning some aerial photography techniques and transitioning from “flight school flying” to commercial flying.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BYlksaDVbohelicopter hand signals