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Missouri scraps rule that created helipad obstruction riskMissouri scraps rule that created helipad obstruction risk

Three bills with provisions to enhance the flight safety at hospital helipads, all actively supported by AOPA, have been signed into law in Missouri.
A Bell 407. AOPA file photo by Mike Fizer.

The legislative package reduces flight hazards by assuring that heliports and helipads at hospitals are free of obstructions in the flight areas used by helicopters during takeoff and landing operations.

The measures reverse a 1998 rule promulgated by a state agency that—under a 2015 reinterpretation—has been taken to require that fences or other physical barriers be established around the helicopter facilities to cordon them off from pedestrians.

That mandate created a potentially hazardous incursion into approach or departure areas, as AOPA Central Southwest Regional Manager Yasmina Platt pointed out during legislative consideration of the bills, and in communications with the office of Gov. Jay Nixon.

“Obstruction hazards to helicopter tail rotors include anything above six inches to about four feet in height including a safety/security fence, lights, buildings, and equipment,” she said.

AOPA supported the three bills, which will relieve hospitals of the obligation to erect fences around helicopter landing sites. Instead, they must ensure that hospital heliports and helipads are free of obstructions, making them safer for helicopters operating on the ground, or during takeoff, approach, or landing.

Legislative language to eliminate the flight risk was proposed by state Sen. Will Kraus (R-District 8), a helicopter pilot; and state Rep. Keith Frederick (R-District 121), an orthopedic surgeon and airplane pilot. The provisions were included in Senate Bills 635, 732, and 988.

AOPA reported in May that Frederick made the case during legislative proceedings that the now-repealed rule was a “well intentioned but very detrimental” policy because of its impact on air ambulance flights, some of which reportedly had been discontinued while the hazard existed.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Obstruction Hazards, State Legislation, Advocacy

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