Often neglected, Helicopter Emergency response and training is vital to first responders and Airport Firefighters.  Many times training with Rotary Wing aircraft is overshadowed by their fixed wing counterparts. That is something we as the ARFFWG and Airport professionals need to enlighten our members and departments on.

Look around your airports; you almost forget they exist … Why? Because they very rarely have major problems.  Rotary Wing aircraft training is just as important as Fixed Wing training and should be stressed just as importantly.

As private companies repair, retrofit or replace venerable airframes we need to look towards our future response training. I believe that we need to train more proactively now, in preparation for this inevitable future.

Just like Fixed wing aircraft, the newer airframes and skins on these helicopters have drastically changed inwardly, as the outward appearance has basically remained the same.  Aircraft Familiarization is the key, physical and classroom. Get your folks out there and take a look at the types of rotary wings landing at your airport.

Standard training fare has always been classroom chalk talk, landing zones and approach. By all means continue to cover them, but we need to expand these training topics and become more specific. During your yearly Aircraft Familiarization training consider covering the following:  pilot, passenger /patient extrication, rotor shutdown, Fuel Shut off, Emergency cut off, Fuel Cell Locations, Tail rotor safety area, Rotor Droop, Hand Signals, Proper Extinguishment, Drone Safety Etc…

Some airports are more fortunate to have willing volunteers and companies that will allow training with their aircraft; other departments have to beg, borrow and steal.  Several suggestions for assistance in acquiring help … USANG, US Coast Guard, USDHS, Local and State Police and News Media, these folks are more than willing to participate in joint operations and training. More often than not, they are also required to participate in yearly emergency training and response drills. Take advantage of this!

Become familiar with the FAA Advisory Circular 91-32B “Safety in and Around Helicopters, AC 27-1 “Certification of Normal Category Rotorcraft”, AC 91-42 “Hazards of Rotating Propeller and Helicopter Rotor Blades”, FAA-H-8083-21 “Rotorcraft Flying Handbook” and the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) Safety Management System Toolkit.

Let’s take a fresh look and different approach to Aircraft Familiarization, start including Helicopters and Drones. Give our people a chance to be prepared and knowledgeable if an emergency arises, Get this in their toolbox! Please contact me if you need any help, I will be more than happy to provide you with files to start you off to producing a helicopter training program.


Final thought, to date there have already been several helicopter incidents in 2018 that I am aware of. New Mexico with a 1967 Bell UH-1 and New York with a 2013 Eurocopter AS-350, a MD Helicopters Inc. 369HM in Perrysburg, Ohio and several military helicopter accidents. Accidents happen, be prepared and crank up your helicopter training program!


About the Author:  Kevin Murphy is a 15-year veteran of the Chicago Fire Department currently assigned as a Training Instructor in the Division of Airport Fire Operations.  Kevin holds certifications in Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting, Firefighter I, II, III, Fire Instructor I, II.