FAA Issues New Heliport Guidance

 - January 10, 2023, 11:23 AM

The FAA has issued its new and long-awaited heliport planning, design, and construction Advisory Circular 150/5390-2D that provides largely voluntary guidance to the rotorcraft community. This new AC supersedes previously issued guidance from 2012. The FAA notes that “the standards and guidelines contained in this AC are practices the FAA recommends for establishing an acceptable level of safety, performance, and operation for heliports.”

However, it does not cover advanced air mobility (AAM) or eVTOL operations. Rather, the FAA notes that it is “developing guidance for vertiports that would be intended for VTOL and/or unmanned aircraft. Until that guidance is published, entities developing operating sites for new aircraft entrants are encouraged to work with the FAA Office of Airports and Flight Standards on applicable design, operational, and safety criteria tailored to the performance of aircraft which intend to operate at those facilities.”

Provisions of the AC are only mandatory if certain federally-funded programs are used to fund the heliports. Those programs include federal grant assistance programs, including but not limited to the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Airport Grants program or projects funded by the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) program. The AC has no applicability under Part 139 airport certification due to an exemption for heliport operators per FAR 139.1(c)(5). The FAA adds, “Other federal agencies, states, or other authorities having jurisdiction over the construction of heliports not funded with AIP, CARES Act, or PFC funds have discretion in establishing the extent to which these standards apply.” 

Principal changes contained in the new AC include a new organizational structure of the material contained therein covering general aviation, transport, and hospital heliports; heliport gradients and pavement design; taxiways, taxi routes, and parking; markings and lighting; site safety elements; pre-designated emergency landing areas; and perimeter lighting for VFR operations. New dimensional, layout, and offset requirements also are included, as is a “heliport evaluation process flow chart.”