Geography and siting of heliports


West 30th Street Heliport – Source:

The list provided near the conslusion of this post shows those  nations with ten or more heliports in 2012, as defined by the CIA. The heliport statistics from CIA’s World Factbook are based on the following criteria:

“The total number of heliports with hard-surface runways, helipads, or landing areas that support routine sustained helicopter operations exclusively and have support facilities including one or more of the following facilities: lighting, fuel, passenger handling, or maintenance. It includes former airports used exclusively for helicopter operations but excludes heliports limited to day operations and natural clearings that could support helicopter landings and takeoffs.”

It is important to distinguish between a heliport and a helipad. Based on the CIA’s definition, most helipads do not qualify as a heliport because they do not have the necessary maintenace and fueling facilities.

For urban and transportation planners, heliports can be a vital link from downtown and other critical transportation and business nodes to the international airport in densely populated and highly developed urban areas. A well-positioned heliport can ease the potential for costly time delays, missed flights, stress, or traffic congestion associated with surface transportation options. Air taxi services through a heliport should be considerd an important cog in the metropolitan transporation infrastructure for mega-urban centers and other large cities around the globe.

As is the case with airport runways, an obstruction clearance area is necessary to assure safe landings and takeoffs along heliport approach paths. As the graphic depicts below, generally, two flight directions are preferred for heliports, but this is not always possible in dense urban settings. At the top of the post is a photograph of the West 30th Street Heliport in Manhattan (see above). For West 30th Street, the Hudson River provides the clearest and and least obstructed route. Manhattan has two other heliports fronting the East River – one downtown near the financial district (see below) and the other at the end of East 34th Street.



Downtown heliport - Source: panaramio,com

Downtown heliport – Source: panaramio,com

According to the book Planning and Design of Airports, other factors that should be considered when planning, designing, and locating heliports include:

    • “Ease of access for potential passengers;
    • Noise considerations;
    • Access to surface transportation and parking;
    • Land aquisition costs;
    • Potential conflicts with other air traffic;
    • Potential turbulence and visibility restrictions; and
    • Availability of emergency landing areas.”

As mega-cities around the globe continue to grow upward and outward and land prices rise, heliports are an attractive option for improving linkages between downtown, other important business and economic development zones in the city, and the airport. Heliports can also be situated in remote places which may be virtually or completely inaccessible by airplanes. For example, who would have ever thought that Antarctica had more heliports in operation than Russia, India, Germany, or Japan? Below is the geographical list of heliports by nation.

Nations with 10 or more heliports

South Korea – 510
United States – 126
Indonesia – 76
China – 59 (including Hong Kong)
Antarctica – 53
Russia – 48
India – 41
Taiwan – 32
Canada – 27
New Zealand – 27
North Korea – 23
Pakistan – 24
Germany – 22
Iran – 21
Iraq – 20
Turkey – 20
Japan – 15
Brazil – 13
Afghanistan – 10
Saudi Arabia – 10
Spain – 10

This entry was posted in aerospace, air travel, airport planning, airports, architecture, cities, Communications, economic development, geography, infrastructure, land use, new urbanism, placemaking, planning, skylines, spatial design, Statistics, technology, tourism, transportation, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Geography and siting of heliports

  1. basil a berchekas jr says:

    a needed study!


  2. Paul Hamilton says:

    HI Rick–
    Someplace in this office we had what I thought was the definitive guide to heliport planning –that I haven’t seen since about 1988 or so– and when you posted this I went to look, but it didn’t jump off the shelves at me…on the other hand, with the National Transportation Library available on line–a resource too few people know about, by the way (just google it and you can search yourself), I can sometimes find reports I’ve written faster on it than I can find them in my own office—but I managed to find more books on heliport planning,than I ever dreamed of out there , including a gem of 459 pages on design by FAA, a heliport Noise Model, and I even think the old 1988 report–which I think MDOT has a copy of in their library as well…..Incidentally, the FAA has A National trasnportation Library just for aviaiton topics, google it and you can go browse there too….Now, .if you want I can email you some of those pdf files for fun, but please don’t site one of those puppies anywhere near my place on Haslett Road….. :)// Regards,
    Paul Hamilton


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