What are the Differences?
In the world of aviation, especially when it comes to helicopters, terms like helidecks, heliports, and helipads are often thrown around. For many, especially those not deeply entrenched in the industry, these terms can seem interchangeable, leading to a considerable amount of confusion. Fundamentally, they all serve the same purpose: providing a landing area for helicopters. However, they each have unique characteristics that distinguish them from one another.
A helipad is the most basic of the three. It’s essentially a flat surface area, whether elevated or on the ground, designated for a helicopter to land.
- Location: They can be found in various settings, from rooftops in urban areas to remote locations for emergency medical landings or even on ships.
- Features: Typically, helipads are marked with a large “H” to identify them as landing areas for pilots. They might also have basic lighting for nighttime landings.
- Usage: They’re often associated with hospitals, businesses, and sometimes private residences, allowing for quick transportation to and from these locations.
The term “helideck” is mostly associated with the offshore world, especially oil rigs and marine vessels.
- Location: As the name suggests, helidecks are decks built on offshore platforms or ships such as SOVs, FPSOs, OSVs and more.
- Features: A helideck often includes specific safety features tailored to the marine environment, such as special fire suppression systems. They are also designed to withstand the harsh conditions of the sea.
- Usage: Helidecks are crucial for transporting workers and supplies to and from offshore locations, especially when these sites are inaccessible by other means.
A heliport is the most complex of the three. Think of it as an airport specifically designed for helicopters.
- Location: These can be standalone structures, or part of larger airports.
- Features: A heliport consists of one or more helipads but also includes facilities like fueling stations, maintenance areas, and often, a control tower. They might also feature waiting areas for passengers and other associated amenities.
- Usage: Heliports support helicopter traffic in densely populated areas or act as central hubs for chopper activities, such as news or medical transport helicopters.
While helipads, helidecks, and heliports all serve the primary function as helicopter pads, their specific features, locations, and usages vary. It’s essential to understand these distinctions, especially if you’re in an industry related to aviation or planning infrastructure that involves one of these landing areas. Remember, the fundamental purpose remains the same, but the context and nuances make all the difference.