To promote noise abatement The London Heliport operates a “Fly Neighbourly” policy and in accordance with accepted industry practices issues the following guidance to aircrew using the facility:

  • Always fly as high as possible subject to the air traffic control clearances    provided (whilst remaining clear of cloud and in sight of the surface).

  • Maintain a circuit height (1,000ft above mean sea level) until final approach.

  • After departure, climb to circuit height (1,000ft amsl) as soon as possible.

  • Take-offs and approaches to land should be “offset” at an angle of 15 degrees away from the designated runway direction (i.e. shoreline on which the heliport  is located) in order that these manoeuvres take place as much as possible over the centre of the river, away either river bank and the buildings facing the riverfront.

  • Climb out and descent should be at safest vertical speed in accordance with approved take-off profile for the aircraft.

  • Manoeuvres below 500ft, apart from climb-out or approach, are not permitted.

  • All turns within the circuit (a dumbbell pattern between Wandsworth and Battersea road bridges) should be made over the river. The direction of turn of    the manoeuvre (left or right) is the pilot’s decision but where possible should be initiated towards the windward direction in order to reduce the diameter of the turn. Turns should not be made until reaching the vicinity of Battersea or Wandsworth road bridges at circuit height (i.e. using the full   dimensions of the circuit) and not cut short, thereby avoiding overflying tall buildings on either bank of the river.

  • Steep banked turns at speed and “blade-slap” are to be avoided.

  • When directed by Air Traffic Control for separation purposes pilots are to fly “north-side” or “south-side” of the River Thames.

  • All manoeuvres should be completed over the centre of the river and avoid cutting corners of river bends over the built-up areas.

  • Engine/ rotor start-up in advance of arrival of passengers are not permitted. Overall ground-running of rotors/engines is limited to a maximum guide time of   5 minutes subject to operational conditions or any delays in receipt of or acting  upon departure clearances.

  • If “Start-Up” permission is granted and departure clearance given but actual departure is delayed for any reason then aircrew may be instructed to shut   down pending a re-start and new clearance.

In additional to all of the noise mitigation practices set out above the London Heliport operates a managed landing and take-off slot system with expeditious air traffic control clearances to optimise aircraft turnaround time, minimising any holding in the air or engine-running on the ground. However in spite of planning occasional delays can occur usually for safety and air traffic management reasons. This may require a helicopter to be held (or “orbit”) in the air at certain locations in the vicinity of the heliport or on the ground with their engines-running for longer than is the usual practice. 

Only approved pilots may use The London Heliport.

Before using the London Heliport all new pilots are required to:

  • Conduct a familiarisation flight with an “approved” pilot already experienced and familiar with current London Heliport procedures.

  • Receive a detailed Air Traffic Control briefing with a duty Air Traffic Control Officer

  • Sign up to the Conditions of Use of the London Heliport.

Due to the changing nature of London Heliport operations, the surrounding airspace and built environment (new tall buildings and cranes) aircrew who have not visited the London Heliport for more than a year should ensure that they remain up to date by annually re-familiarising themselves with local procedures. To assist with this process verbal refresher briefings are available by arrangement from duty Air Traffic Controllers.

The ATC initial briefing covers the following areas:

Document References:

  • London Heliport Manual of Air Traffic Services

  • 1:50,000 scale London Helicopter Routes Chart

  • UK integrated Aeronautical Information Package

Topics including:

  • London (Heathrow and City) Control Zone Airspace and Helicopter Routes
  • Heli-routes

  • Restricted Areas

  • Operating Altitudes

  • Holding/ Reporting points 

  • Priority Traffic (Police, Air Ambulance)

London Heliport:

  • Air Traffic Zone procedures

  • Prior Permission (advance slot bookings)

  • Radio Contact routines (including radio failure)

  • Go-Arounds

  • Flight Clearances

  • Separation of Air Traffic

  • Local Hazards (tall buildings, cranes, river traffic, birds)

  • Turbulence/ Wind Shear (associated with tall buildings)

  • Circuit (Standard & Extended) and Circuit height

  • Low flying/ manoeuvre restrictions

  • Transponder conspicuity (radar tracking)

  • Emergencies

  • Airspace infringements

  • Fly Neighbourly policy

  • Noise Abatement 

  • Manoeuvring

  • Start-ups/ Shut-downs

  • Marshalling

  • Take-off and landing clearances and preferred routings

  • Manoeuvres (air and ground)

  • Refuelling

  • Aircraft parking – towing and mechanical handling

  • International Flight Planning

  • Rotors-running operations    

The London Heliport has an Air Traffic Zone (ATZ) which is a circular area with a radius of 2 nautical miles centred on the heliport.  ​ Helicopters enter and exit the London Heliport ATZ using the available routes permitted for helicopters and use the “circuit” overhead of the heliport to safely manoeuvre for landing and after take-off. Some air traffic not using the London Heliport but navigating across London may simply fly directly overhead without landing. When the heliport is open and managing its local visiting air traffic it also co-ordinates this with other overflying traffic at the same time. At other times when the London Heliport is not active such overflying traffic is under the management air traffic controllers employed by National Air Traffic Services (NATS) based at their regional radar centre in the south of England where other low-level air traffic in the London area is managed. NATS also look after significant areas of the national airspace infrastructure including higher altitude air traffic. Whenever possible helicopters operating to or from the heliport will fly over the centre of the river and be at the highest possible safe altitude. However, there may be circumstances when safety considerations require that air traffic may be directed to hold or fly away from the centre of the river in order to provide adequate safe separation from another helicopter traffic.

At the lower levels of the local airspace the London Heliport strives to ensure that the noise and environmental impact of its operation (within the ATZ and main circuit in particular are minimised through sound air traffic management, information provision and briefing of aircrew.

The London Heliport is located within the London Control Zone which is centred on Heathrow Airport (mostly to the west of London) at its eastern boundary. Immediately to the east London Control Zone (and the London Heliport ATZ) boundaries is the smaller London City Control Zone, centred on London City Airport.

All helicopters flights in the London and London City Control Zones are subject to

Air Traffic Control (ATC) clearance due to the classification of airspace (Class D). Pilots navigate by visual reference to ground features with limited assistance from ATC and are responsible for ensuring that they fly in accordance with the Rules of the Air.

Some of these rules are for the protection of third parties and the prevention of collisions, which include observing minimum weather conditions and selecting a safe height for flight that considers separation from obstacles (such as buildings and cranes) and the height of the ground.

For safety, operational and security reasons measures are in place that limit or constrain helicopter flights in some areas unless otherwise authorised. Some of these restrictions apply to all helicopters and some only apply to single-engine helicopters.

Pre-determined routes, the London Helicopter Routes, have been established across the London and London City Control Zones to assist with the integration of helicopter flights into the airspace, however pilots are often provided with an ATC clearance to transit through the airspace on more direct routings. In accepting an ATC clearance, the pilot still remains responsible for ensuring that they fly in accordance with the Rules of the Air.

The often meandering helicopter routes are marked on charts available to and used by helicopter aircrew allow them to navigate in the lower level airspace (up to 2,500ft). These routes were established in the 1970s and aimed to route what was then largely single engine helicopter traffic over the more open-space green space land available and along the River Thames separating it from Heathrow Airport (and now London City Airport) air traffic using prominent features on the ground known as visual reference points for navigation and other features used routinely by ATC and pilots for position reporting.

As twin engine helicopters came into wider use, these types were then permitted to fly on more direct routings in areas away from designated helicopter route network.

All helicopter traffic is generally managed to fly at specific heights above the ground in order that it is vertically separated from overflying, mostly larger fixed-wing, air traffic using London Heathrow, London City (and to a lesser extent RAF Northolt) aerodromes, normally at the maximum safe highest altitude. Flying at lower levels is only permitted by specific permission of the Civil Aviation Authority. In London this may be normally only be exercised by Police and Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) helicopters which may also be permitted to range freely across the airspace, away from established helicopter routes whilst carrying out their emergency public service roles.

On the designated helicopter routes the lowest permitted height is 500 feet above the ground, except when landing or taking off in accordance with normal aviation practice. However at the same time a safe clearance of 500ft from all tall buildings and other prominent structures (e.g. masts, cranes) must also be observed.

Reviews and changes to the classification of airspace have taken place over the years and continue. The objectives of reviews and changes have been to ensure that the regulatory requirements can be continued to be maintained and wherever possible simplified in their application, whilst at the same time maintaining or improving of the existing high levels of safety within the airspace.

The management of low level aircraft within the London and London City Control Zones has evolved over 40 years or more and whilst there have been changes made as a result of both ATC and helicopter operator feedback, the fundamental principles of use have remained constant.

The London Helicopter Routes however have been in existence for a number of decades and have not undergone any significant changes since they were introduced whilst the density and height of the urban environment has changed significantly since their introduction. Work continues to review and update the ground feature reference points to reflect newer significant structures (e.g. London Eye, and Wembley Stadium) and recognise the significant wider changes in the urban built environment. At the same time there is an opportunity to further enhance safety through re-evaluation of the route profiles by raising base levels, their (weather-related) conditions of availability and requirements associated with the necessary reporting and holding points along the routes to allow separation of traffic where required.

Wind strength and direction, air temperature and density as well as the helicopter’s weight, speed and performance capability can influence the helicopter’s take-off and landing profiles and resulting noise footprint on the ground.

All helicopters have defined safe take-off and landing profiles set by the manufacturer based on some of these important parameters. At the London Heliport take-off and landing profiles are carried out with reference to the circular “H” aiming point located at the centre of the landing platform (helipad) which is elevated over the shoreline of the tidal River Thames. Operators must conform to guidance in helicopter manufacturer manuals for the performance class of helicopter (twin or single engine) which they operate.

Like fixed-wing aircraft helicopters prefer to take-off and land facing into the oncoming wind but do have a greater degree of flexibility to manage the manoeuvre due to the ability to fly at lower controlled speeds. For example if there is a good nose wind, less power is required to keep the helicopter airborne and therefore a steeper approach/departure angle can be achieved.

Occasionally, when air density and temperature are at a particular level, noise from a helicopter’s main rotor can be perceived as a “blade slap”. Blade slap may also occur when the helicopter slows down to descend or turn and this will cause an increase in perceived noise. It is sometimes possible to reduce the speed and/or the turn and descent angle to reduce the impact of blade slap.

The London Heliport is permitted to operate between the hours of 0700 and 2300 daily but has core normal opening hours (0730 to 1930 weekdays and 0800 to 1800 weekends and public holidays) hours. Outside of core opening hours the London Heliport will normally close if it has no pre-booked air traffic.
 If you are disturbed by helicopter traffic before 0700 and after 2300 it will not be air traffic managed by London Heliport.

To register a complaint about helicopter operations which you think may relate to the London Heliport please use the Noise Complaint Form

All complaints made will be investigated and a response provided to you detailing the findings and outcome of the investigation.

All noise complaints concerning London Heliport operations are investigated and findings are reported to the London Heliport Consultative Group which meets at least twice annually. The London Heliport Consultative Group is attended by councillors and resident representatives from each of the three local London boroughs (Wandsworth, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea). Details of noise complaints are published as part of the minutes of each meeting.

The London Heliport is committed to upholding its Fly Neighbourly policy and ensuring air traffic is managed safely and in a way which mitigates the noise impact on the local community.

Some helicopter operations subject to a complaint may however not relate to London Heliport or be outside of its direct control. For example National Police Air Service helicopters may operate across London 24 hours per day.

The London Heliport undertakes to endeavour to investigate any complaint on your behalf or direct you to the authority responsible for the helicopter operation. Some breaches of aviation law for example may be subject to investigation by the Civil Aviation Authority as the national aviation regulator.  If you believe that a helicopter has breached airspace rules you should contact the CAA via this link which has guidance for the public about what the CAA can investigate and how to contact them.


Further information about helicopter noise, environmental noise controls, agencies responsible for helicopter operations and information about the London Heliport Consultative Group can be found on the Wandsworth Borough website.


The London Heliport is a member of the British Helicopter Association which is non-profit trade organisation that represents the UK’s civil helicopter industry to government departments and international bodies. Its main aim it is to promote the safe, efficient and environmentally responsible operation of rotorcraft throughout the UK. It produces informative publications about the role of helicopters including one entitled The Civil Helicopter in the Community which provides further information on helicopters themselves, a section on aviation law, air traffic considerations, legislation concerning landing sites, and further

details on environmental issues.