The 4 - 1 - 8 on Heliport Design

A heliport is defined as, "an identifiable area...used or intended to be used for landing and takeoff of helicopters."   NFPA 409, Standard on Aircraft Hangars  applies to all ground-level based aviation structures and facilities. Aviation facilities not at ground-level, meeting the definition of a heliport, must comply with the provisions of NFPA 418, Standard for Heliports.

"Heliport Monaco" by Neil Howard

NFPA 418 addresses the following heliport design and safety considerations:

  • Rooftop landing facilities
  • Rooftop hangars
  • Offshore heliports
  • Water supply
  • Emergency operations
Chapter 4 of this standard identifies the basic requirements for these facilities.  When reviewing plans for heliport facilities, the plans must meet the requirements of NFPA 418. Additionally, the facility must be designed in accordance with FAA A/C 150/5390-2B (this advisory circular has been updated to 150/5390-2C), Heliport Design Advisory Circular.   As a consultant, or design professional, these documents should be utilized together to create a complete fire protection, life safety, and code compliance strategy.  As a fire plans reviewer, the primary concern is NFPA 418 compliance. The local fire official should place the responsibility for FAA compliance on the structure's owner/engineer and can require an FAA special expert to ensure the proper design criteria is met.

In addition to meeting the requirements of NFPA 30, Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code, tanks should be located per the requirements of NFPA 418. Flammable liquid, compressed gas, fuel storage, and liquefied gas storage tanks are not permitted to be installed within 50' of the FATO (final approach and takeoff area).  The required dimensions and space for the FATO are defined in FAA A/C 150/5390-2C.

Access for emergency response must be accessible, no fence or barrier that could prevent access is allowed to be installed.  A minimum of 2 access points to the landing pad are to be provided for fire department access.

All fueling systems are required to be installed in accordance with NFPA 407, Standard for Aircraft Fuel Servicing.  Fuel equipment cannot interfere with the FATO and safety obstruction clearances required by the FAA Advisory Circular. Additionally, the fueling equipment cannot be installed within 25' of a hangar or fixed fire protection equipment, or obstruct egress or emergency access points.

For emergency egress from the landing pad, two ways are to be provided.  These two means of egress are to be remotely located from each other and on different sides of the pad. A proper egress configuration is shown below:
image source: NFPA 418:A.4.8.1(b)

This is a brief outline of the basic protection requirements for heliport design.  Individual configurations are addressed by the NFPA 418 standard.  Each configuration will have additional requirements to be reviewed.