Working with Helicopters

Working with Helicopters

If evacuation by helicopter is required, there are some safety procedures that you need to follow.

Picture of RAF Sea King on top of Ben Nevis - courtesy of Chris Bradshaw

Working with Helicopters 

Working with Helicopters

Signalling a Passing Helicopter
The maxim to follow is not to make any arm movements towards a helicopter if you do not need assistance, as such movements may be mis-interpreted from a few hundred feet up.

Evacuation by Helicopter

In the event of evacuation by helicopter, the following safety advice is important to follow:

  • to attract the attention of a helicopter you can shine your torch towards it at a distance, but when it's clear they've seen you (you should see a white light pointing towards you) stop shining the torch directly at it. This is because the crew are probably using night vision goggles, and a strong light will saturate their vision

  • all helicopters produce downdraft from their rotor blades. Such downdrafts cause strong winds, so it's essential that you and your kit are secure to avoid getting blown away

  • never approach a landed helicopter until instructed to do so by a crew member. This is because rotor blades dip towards the ground when power is reduced, or in strong winds when 'blade sail' occurs, which could be catastrophic for anyone in their path. If there is any safety doubt, a crew member will escort people to the aircraft

  • if a helicopter lands on a slope, you may have to approach (when signalled to do so) on your knees to avoid risk of contact with rotor blades, as the blades will be lower on one side of the helicopter when compared to the other

  • never approach a helicopter from the rear

  • if you need to be winched, just follow the instructions given to you at the time by the winchman


The RAF have produced a guide, called 'Working with helicopters' - worth a read (and it has some good pictures too)