These rules for being in and around helicopters are taught by the United States Antarctic Program in their Happy Camper survival course.

The Approach:

1) Never approach a helicopter from the rear. The pilot has no mirrors and cannot see you. The tail rotor is at head height for the average person and a swirling blade powered by a jet turbine will reduce you to a meat splash if you make contact. A helicopter is just as likely to make movements sideways or backward as up when taking off.

2) Never approach a helicopter until the pilot has signaled it's okay for you to do so. Stand in front of the helicopter, make eye contact, and wait for her to give you the signal.

3) Though the main rotor is well above the height of most people it makes some sense to crouch while walking under it. Some pilots feel better if you do this. While you may feel you look like William Shatner in a bad cop movie, it's not bad practice. Helicopters are light and it's marginally possible a gust of wind could make a change in the angle of rotation and bring the rotor blades closer to the ground where you are. See: meat splash

4) While it is true that drunks survive crashes better than sober people, you will not be allowed on the helicopter if the helo tech determines you're toasted.


5) Put your helmet on as soon as you get into the helicopter. If you're smart you've already wiped down the microphone with an alcohol swab so you don't get the McMurdo crud from the prior user. Connect the headset to the internal intercom system. Do not talk to the pilot while she is speaking with the tower. Otherwise, they get kind of lonely ferrying around beakers and appreciate knowing what happened to that cute fuelie she was drinking with last night at Gallager's. Yes, helicopter pilots are the alpha wolves on station and get the best ass.

6) If you are going to crash you will be notified of that likelihood by the pilot. Do not attempt to leave the helicopter until the ride has come to a complete stop: all blades have stopped spinning, and the cabin has stopped tumbling down the mountain side and into the crevasse. Lots of helicopter crashes are survivable. It may be your lucky day.

7) If instructed to by the pilot, assume the brace position. Cross your arms across your chest and grab your 5-point harness. Press your chin into your chest. Prayer is at your discretion.

8) Do not puke in the helicopter. There are no airsickness bags. The pilot will make you clean it up yourself. So just don't.

9) When seated in the front seat next to the pilot, lean to the left. Keep your limbs away from the controls.

Getting out:

10) Do not exit the helicopter until instructed to do so by the pilot.

11) Even if instructed to do by the pilot, do not exit (or approach) the helicopter if the rotor blades are spinning down. The blades sag as they go slower and so come closer to head-height. You will be reduced to a meat splash if hit by a blade even if it's going slow. Wait for the blades to stop completely before exiting.

12) If you're in the field leave your helmet on your seat buckled down with the seatbelt. If you're at McMurdo station helo ops, bring the helmet inside and put it in its bag. Put the bag with the helmet on the rack.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.