All persons boarding a helicopter while its rotors are turning should be taught the safest means of doing so. The pilot in command (PIC) should always brief the passengers prior to engine start to ensure complete understanding of all procedures. The exact procedures may vary slightly from one helicopter model to another, but the following should suffice as a generic guide.
- Stay away from the rear of the helicopter.
- Approach or leave the helicopter in a crouching manner.
- Approach from the side but never out of the pilot’s line of vision. Many helicopters have dipping front blades due to landing gear configuration. For that reason, it is uniformly accepted for personnel to approach from the sides of the helicopter. Personnel should always be cautioned about approaching from the rear due to the tail rotor hazard, even for helicopters such as the BO-105 and BK-117.
- Carry tools horizontally, below waist level—never upright or over the shoulder.
- Hold firmly onto hats and loose articles.
- Never reach up or dart after a hat or other object that might be blown off or away.
- Protect eyes by shielding them with a hand or by squinting.
- If suddenly blinded by dust or a blowing object, stop and crouch lower; better yet, sit down and wait for help.
- Never grope or feel your way toward or away from the helicopter.
- Protect hearing by wearing earplugs or earmuffs.
Since few helicopters carry cabin attendants, the pilot must conduct the pretakeoff and prelanding briefings, usually before takeoff due to noise and cockpit layout. The type of operation dictates what sort of briefing is necessary. All briefings should include the following:
- The use and operation of seatbelts for takeoff, en route, and landing.
- For over water flights, the location and use of flotation gear and other survival equipment that might be on board. Also include how and when to abandon the helicopter should ditching become necessary.
- For flights over rough or isolated terrain, all occupants should be told where maps and survival gear are located.
- Passengers should be informed as to what actions and precautions to take in the event of an emergency, such as the body position for best spinal protection against a high vertical impact landing (erect with back firmly against the seat back); and when and how to exit after landing. Ensure that passengers are aware of the location of the fire extinguisher, survival equipment and, if equipped, how to use and locate the Emergency Position Indicator Radio Beacon (EPIRB).
- Smoking should not be permitted within 50 feet of an aircraft on the ground. Smoking could be permitted upwind from any possible fuel fumes, at the discretion of the pilot, except under the following conditions:
- During all ground operations.
- During takeoff or landing.
- When carrying flammable or hazardous materials.
When passengers are approaching or leaving a helicopter that is sitting on a slope with the rotors turning, they should approach and depart downhill. This affords the greatest distance between the rotor blades and the ground. If this involves walking around the helicopter, they should always go around the front—never the rear.