Section 6. Helicopter Route Chart
a. The Helicopter Route
Chart Program has been established to enhance
helicopter access into, egress from, and operation
within high density traffic areas by depicting
discrete and/or common use helicopter routes,
operating zones, and, where necessary, radio
frequencies. The program had been designed to improve
operational safety in areas where significant
helicopter operations occur, and to establish a
systematic process for chart development,
modification, and acquisition.
b. Pilot adherence to
charted helicopter routes and the recommended
altitudes or flight ceilings associ-ated with them
will normally be voluntary. However, controllers may
assign charted routes and altitudes and expect or
request pilot compliance with them, provided such
procedures are called for in specific FAA-operator
Letters of Agreement, or are necessitated by traffic
density and/or safety considerations; controllers also
may restrict operations within designated operating
zones when requested by local law enforcement
officials and the restriction would not adversely
affect other aircraft operations.
c. Helicopter route charts
must be published individually, on a site-specific
basis. They are not updated on a regular basis as are
other visual charts. They will be updated when a
significant number of changes have accumulated, or
when safety related or major airspace modifications
warrant the printing of a new chart. The Dates of
Latest Editions, published by the National Ocean
Service will serve as a notice when a new chart is
about to be published and which editions of charts are
currently in use.
Helicopter Route Charts are graphic
portrayals of discrete and/or common use helicopter
routes and/or operating zones located in high density
traffic areas; their purpose is to facilitate
helicopter pilot access into, egress from, or
operation within charted areas. They generally will
include associated altitude or flight ceiling
information to facilitate IFR traffic avoidance and
pilot adherence to minimum safe altitude requirements.
The charts provide expanded, and in some cases unique,
ground reference symbology to improve visual
Use the following criteria when
determining the need for a new or revised helicopter
altitudes/flight ceilings/floors must avoid
restricted/military airspace requiring prior
authorization or clearance to enter.
2. All routes depicted on a
helicopter route chart must, to the maximum extent
practicable, reference ground objects that can be
readily identified from the air.
b. Operating zones: Airspace
encompassed by a helicopter route chart must, when
necessary and required by operational considerations,
be divided into a sufficient number of operating zones
or sectors to permit local law enforcement agencies to
operate within them on an exclusive basis.
c. Altitudes and flight
ceilings/floors: Each segment of a helicopter
route may contain recommended altitudes or flight
ceilings/floors. It is the discretion of the local air
traffic tower if such altitudes will be depicted, or,
assigned at a later date when the pilot contacts the
altitudes/flight ceilings/floors must avoid airspace
requiring prior authorization or clearance to enter.
2. Care should be exercised
to avoid recommending altitudes or flight
ceilings/floors which could cause helicopters
operating on a designated route to encounter inflight
wake turbulence generated by large, fixed wing
3. When altitude/flight
ceiling changes are required, they should be based on
a descent rate of 250-350 feet per nautical mile.
information: Each helicopter route chart must
include sufficient radio communications information to
permit pilot compliance with all pertinent regulatory
requirements, and facilitate the acquisition and
dissemination of air traffic advisory information.
e. Military considerations:
Avoid establishing helicopter routes or operating
zones which would conflict with military ground
control radar approach paths. When charting a route or
operating zone which crosses or is located in close
proximity to a MTR, include communications
instructions that will permit pilots to determine the
status of the MTR.
f. Helicopter routes may be
changed or modified whenever a new chart is updated.
It is recommended that all route modifications be
coordinated with operating groups in the local area.
a. Helicopter route chart
development: Facility air traffic managers are
responsible for determining the need for chart
development or revision, and for compliance with the
1. Initial action: Facility
air traffic managers who desire to establish a new
route chart or revise an existing chart must establish
a task force or planning group comprised of local air
traffic, FSDO, military, law enforcement, and
helicopter operator personnel to recommend the area of
chart coverage and the paths, routes, and operating
zones that will comprise it.
2. Justification: All
recommendations for new and/or revised charting must
include justifying information that includes, as a
minimum, the following information:
(a) Background information
pertinent to chart development or revision, including
the composition of the task force or planning group;
(b) The airspace areas and
proposed routes, operating zones, and altitude/flight
ceiling/floor considerations examined;
(c) Special VFR procedural
(d) Task force or planning
group recommendations; and
(e) Supporting rationale.
3. Charts and description:
Facility air traffic managers must provide a narrative
description or drawing of the chart area, including:
(a) Identification of all
integral routes or operating zones, with named visual
checkpoints and elevations, and associated altitude or
flight ceiling limitations;
(b) Any IFR routes that fall
within the charted area;
(c) Procedural notes
pertinent to operations within the charted area or an
operating zone, and on designated routes; and
(d) Traffic advisory radio
communications frequencies and ATC facility names
associated with area, route, or zone operations.
b. Chart approval:
Terminal Operations Service Area Directors are
responsible for reviewing and approving new or revised
helicopter route chart proposals, and assuring that
they comply with all prescribed criteria. However,
procedural implementation may not occur until the
proposal has been reviewed by System Operations
Airspace and Aeronautical Information Management, and
subsequently published. Consequently, managers should
forward their approved packets through System
Operations Airspace and Aeronautical Information
Management as far in advance of the desired
publication/implementation date as possible.
The publication lead times for new charts and minor
chart revisions will routinely approximate 6-9 months
and 3-4 months, respectively.
c. Annual review: Terminal
Operations Service Area Directors are responsible for
the conduct of annual reviews of existing VFR
helicopter route charts to determine their accuracy
and continued utility.
d. Chart revisions:
1. Revisions to existing
helicopter route charts may be initiated by any
facility air traffic manager, but can only be approved
by the Terminal Operations Service Area Directors.
However, to assure completion of all requisite
Airspace and Rules review and publication
requirements, proposals must be submitted through
System Opererations Airspace and Aeronautical
Information Management to Airspace and Rules at least
6-9 months or 3-4 months (as appropriate) prior to
their expected or recommended implementation date.
2. The following are
considered sufficient justification for a revision:
(a) Changes, additions, or
deletions to area coverage, designated routes or
operating zones, controlling agencies and/or
frequencies, procedural notes, or airport/heliport/helistop
(b) Changes in IFR routes
within the chart coverage area; and
(c) Additions or deletions
to visual checkpoints.
Facility air traffic managers must seek the
cooperation of local FSDO personnel in informing local
aviation interests about the Helicopter Route Chart
Program. Special emphasis should be placed on:
1. The voluntary nature of
pilot adherence to designated routes, operating zones,
altitudes/flight ceilings, and procedural notes;
2. The importance of chart
use to operational safety and IFR traffic avoidance;
3. The “see and avoid”
nature of operations within the chart area.