Helicopter School Landing Authorizations

Helicopter School Landing Authorization Overview

The State of California has a law governing landings and departures of helicopters at children’s schools.  Public Utilities Code (PUC) Section 21662.5 states, in part, that, with limited exemptions, “no helicopter may land or depart in any area within 1,000 feet, measured by air line, of the boundary of any public or private school maintaining kindergarten classes or any classes in grades 1 through 12, without approval of the department [i.e., Caltrans].”  In response, the Division of Aeronautics developed and oversees the Helicopter Landing Authorization (HLA) program, as described in California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 21, Section 3532(c).  The helicopter school landing approvals are often referred to as “HLAs.”  PUC 21662.5 also allows certain public safety agencies, as designated by the Division of Aeronautics, to conduct HLA evaluations and approvals.  Selected personnel from these agencies complete a HLA training program and are certified as “PSA Designees.”

Helicopter landings at schools are done for a number of important purposes, including “Every 15 Minutes” drunk-driving awareness programs and career days.  The HLA program seeks to facilitate these landings, while maintaining safe conditions for students, teachers, and others in the community.  Links to additional information and forms for the HLA program are provided below. Note: 14 CFR Part 133 Operators see specific link below.

Please contact our current HLA Coordinator, Christopher Brooks, at (916) 654-5450 or email Christopher.Brooks@dot.ca.gov if you have additional questions.

Public Utilities Code 21662.5

Notwithstanding Section 21006 or Section 21661 or any other provision of law to the contrary, no helicopter may land or depart in any area within 1,000 feet, measured by air line, of the boundary of any public or private school maintaining kindergarten classes or any classes in grades 1 through 12, without approval of the department or by a public safety agency designated by the department, unless the landing or departure takes place at a permitted permanent heliport, or is a designated emergency medical service landing site.

Before approval of the landing or departure of a helicopter pursuant to this section, all schools within the specified area shall be notified by the department or public safety agency of the application and shall have 15 days after the notice in which to demand a public hearing. The public hearing shall be held at a location in the immediate vicinity of the landing or departure site. The department or public safety agency shall not grant approval pursuant to this section unless it has first found that helicopter operations at the proposed site can be conducted in a safe manner, and in accordance with criteria established by the department.

This section shall not prevent the governing body of any city or county from enacting ordinances or regulations imposing restrictions equal to or greater than those imposed by this section.

California Code of Regulations, Title 21, Section 3532(c), (in part)

For a temporary airport authorization for helicopter operations within 1000 feet of a school:

  1. No person may takeoff or land a helicopter within 1000 feet of the boundary of any public or private school that maintains kindergarten classes or any classes in grades 1 through 12, unless at a permitted heliport or an EMS [Emergency Medical Services] landing site, without first applying for and obtaining a Helicopter Landing Authorization (HLA) from the Department or from a public safety agency (PSA) designated by the Department.
  2. To apply for an HLA, a person shall submit to the Department, or to a PSA designated by the Department, a completed Form DOA-0204 - Helicopter Landing Authorization-Application. The application shall include the following:
    1. a signed statement from the administration of each school that is within 1,000 feet of the proposed helicopter operations stating that the administration does not object to the proposed helicopter operations at the site and the administration waives its right to demand a public hearing in accordance with PUC Section 21662.5, and
    2. a signed statement approving the helicopter operations from the landing site's owner, if the helicopter operations will not be on school property.

HLA Exemptions

Helicopter landings or departures at State-permitted permanent heliports, or designated emergency medical service landing sites, are exempted from this law, and, pursuant to PUC 21661, the law does not apply to heliports owned or operated by the federal government.

HLA Process

In accordance with CCR 3532(c), sponsors need to submit a completed Helicopter Landing Authorization application, Division of Aeronautics Form DOA-0204 – Helicopter Landing Authorization - Application, to the Division. We request these forms be submitted at least two weeks in advance of the planned helicopter landing. However, we recommend that submissions be made as far in advance as possible, 30 days at a minimum. With resource and budgetary limitations faced by all, and in consideration of the Public Safety Agency Designees who often conduct helicopter landing authorizations for other helicopter operators, early notification helps us try to accommodate the requests.

The signed and completed helicopter landing authorization application must include helicopter operator information and signed statements from the administration of all schools within 1,000 of the proposed helicopter landing. This statement indicates the school does not object to the helicopter landing and that they waive their right to a public hearing pursuant to PUC 21662.5. Additionally, if the landing is not on school property, the application must include a signed statement of approval from the landing site’s owner.

During the actual helicopter landing authorization evaluation, the Division representative or Public Safety Agency Designee meets with the helicopter operator and a representative of the landing site to determine whether a suitable, safe helicopter landing site is available. The evaluator specifies a landing location (with adequate Final Approach and Touchdown Area (FATO) and Safety Areas for the helicopter model to be used), and approach and departure flight path(s) that are free from obstructions (in accordance with Federal Aviation Regulation Part 77 requirements) and do not overfly school buildings or students. The evaluator also stipulates that all loose material and equipment be removed prior to helicopter landing, and adequate crowd control procedures are established to keep unauthorized persons away from the helicopter until the rotor blades have come to a complete stop.

The evaluator develops a sketch to illustrate the specific elements of the HLA location and flight information, per Division guidelines. The evaluator submits the HLA application, sketch, and HLA Authorization to the Division (and provides copies of these 3 documents to the helicopter operator and school as well). The purpose of the HLA evaluation is to meet the PUC 21662.5 requirement that approval for an HLA shall not be granted unless helicopter operations at the proposed site can be conducted in a safe manner.

HLA Evaluation Criteria Diagrams

Helicopter Landing Authorization Definitions

Final Approach and Takeoff Area (FATO) - The area of a heliport over which the final phase of the approach to a hover for a landing is completed and from which the takeoff is initiated.

Safety Area - A defined area on a heliport surrounding the FATO which is free of objects at or above the elevation of the closest point of the TLOF, other than those required for air navigation purposes, and is intended to reduce the risk of damage to helicopters accidentally diverging from the FATO. Objects required for air navigation purposes within this area shall be on frangible mounts and shall not penetrate the approach or transitional surfaces by more than two inches.

Touchdown and Liftoff Area (TLOF): The load bearing area of a heliport that is centered within the FATO and upon which a helicopter lands or takes off (for HLAs, this area is not separately defined within the FATO).

Approach/Takeoff Path: The flight track, centered within an approach surface, which helicopters follow when landing at or taking off from a heliport.

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Landing Site - A site used for the landing and taking off of EMS helicopters that is located at or as near as practical to a medical emergency or at or near a medical facility and

  1. has been designated an EMS landing site by an officer authorized by a public safety agency, as defined in PUC 21662.1, using criteria that the public safety agency has determined is reasonable and prudent for the safe operation of EMS helicopters (a copy of the written authorization must be provided to the Department), and
  2. is used, over any 12-month period, for no more than an average of 6 landings per month with a patient or patients on the helicopter, except to allow for adequate medical response to a mass casualty event even if that response causes the site to be used beyond these limits, and
  3. is not marked as a permitted heliport as described in Section 3554 of these regulations and
  4. is used only for emergency medical purposes.

Title 14 of Federal Regulations, Part 133, Helicopter External Load Operations or Congested Area Lift Plans

In 14 CFR Part 133, § 133.33(d) permits a helicopter operator to conduct external-load operations over congested areas provided the operator does so without creating undue hazard to persons or property. Section 133.33(d)(1) requires the operator to develop a congested area plan (CAP) for each operation in a densely populated area. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) that has jurisdiction over the area of operation must approve the operator’s plan for each operation.

In accordance with CCR 3532(c), a helicopter operator proposing to conduct external-load operations over congested areas and within 1,000 feet of the school, must also submit a completed Helicopter Landing Authorization (HLA) application, Caltrans Division of Aeronautics form DOA-0204, to Caltrans. The completed HLA application must include helicopter operator information and signatures of approval from the administration of all schools within 1,000 feet of the proposed helicopter landing. Additionally, if the landing is not on school property, the application must include signatures of approval from the landing site’s owner. However, in lieu of an additional evaluation by either a Caltrans Division of Aeronautics representative or PSA Designee, Caltrans will accept the approval of the FAA FSDO representative, along with the approved diagram and CAP documentation.

The Part 133 operator must submit both the approved CAP and the completed HLA Application to Caltrans. The documentation should be submitted to Caltrans at least five (5) working days prior to the start of operations. No operations are authorized at a proposed site until the operator receives an HLA from Caltrans.

Public Safety Agencies Training Information

Public Safety Agencies (PSA) that desire to have personnel trained and designated to evaluate HLAs need to ensure the agency and candidates qualify for the program. All PSA Designees must be qualified pilots who fly for their PSA. Additional criteria has been developed to screen potential PSA Designee candidates. Please use the flow chart shown below as a tool in self-screening your personnel. If your personnel qualify, please contact the HLA Coordinator, Christopher Brooks, at (916) 654-5450, to request training. Training may be provided at your location, if a minimum of 5-6 candidates are available for training and the PSA Designee training can be combined with other Caltrans Division of Aeronautics business.