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Who Has The Right-of-Way?


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Time once again for me to show my ignorance, only being a rotor-head and not a pilot. Here in my wonderful home of Dallas, Texas, we have many hospitals in what is a relatively small area. The main hospitals that I will use for sake of discussion are Children's Hospital Dallas, Parkland Hospital, Presbyterian Hospital, and Baylor Medical Center.

 

First here is a visual reference so everything will actually make sense:

plurm.jpg

 

With the given measurements, can anyone shed some light on whether I am perceiving this as a larger issue than it is, or how this busy airspace is handled on a day to day basis? I see all sorts of flight pushing the air over Dallas everyday and I find it amazing that we have this much air activity in such an enclosed space (and I only included the larger airports) is this not as out of the ordinary as I think?

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I am not sure I understand the question here. Who has right of way? The right of way rules as published in the FAR 91.113 apply to all aircraft including HEMS.

 

Now, take that a step farther, since you are posting in the HEMS board. While under Air Traffic Control we use "Lifeguard" in our call-sign. The use of "Lifeguard" lets ATC know of our status and is a request for priority with minimal delay when possible. This does not change the right of way rules. What will happen is ATC may delay other aircraft on the ground or alter another aircraft's clearance so the "Lifeguard" aircraft can proceed with out delay.

 

If you are referring to the number of HEMS helicopter landing at a particular hospital or nearby hospitals then it is a little different. Again the Right of Way rules in 91.113 still stand. However, often times we are aware there is another HEMS helicopter in the area and communicate to that pilot on 123.025. By talking to the other pilot on 123.025 we can decide which way each of us intends to go and which hospital. If both are landing at the same hospital then again, by communicating we can decide which aircraft should land first. Factors in that decision include status of the Patient, ETA, fuel etc.

 

In order for this to work, radio calls on 123.025 have to be made in the blind on a regular bases, much like a CTAF at an uncontrolled airport. If everyone just "monitors" 123.025 but never reports on it then what is the point?

 

One time I was inbound to a Level Two Trauma Center in Las Vegas. It turned out I was number 3 for the pad. The pad was already occupied. Another helicopter was waiting at KLAS for his turn, then there was me. Rather than wait I asked the medical crew if they would like to change hospitals, while a few miles farther we would be able to land a lot sooner than having to wait. Since the second hospital was a Level One Trauma Center the standard of care was higher anyway.

 

HEMS is much more dynamic, and in busy Metro areas requires a lot of communication and awareness of what is going on around you.

 

Hope this helps answer your question.

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Ok looks like I need to clarify, the real question here is more or less what was JD said about radio transmissions and priority, I also was wondering how similar to other locations these proximity were both from place to place and in the helipads themselves

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Very common for them to be that close. Apparently hospitals like to be right next to each other. In Des Moines we have 7 hospital pads and the international airport all within a 4 mile radius. In Omaha they have 6 hospital pads all within 3 miles on the same road.

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As previously posted, it's very common for hospitals to geographically cluster.

In my experience, the pilots involved coordinate pad use via air-to-air. The letter of the law and regulation is still in force regarding right of way, with the added consideration that most hospital helipads are privately owned giving the institution itself a considerable amount of control.

Is right of way an issue? It can be, especially with controlled and uncontrolled airspace in the immediate vicinity of many hospitals. I've made all my calls inbound only to have somebody pop out of Class D right next to the destination and create instant traffic issues... even though I was also monitoring that freq against just that possibility.

Edited by Wally
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Time once again for me to show my ignorance, only being a rotor-head and not a pilot. Here in my wonderful home of Dallas, Texas, we have many hospitals in what is a relatively small area. The main hospitals that I will use for sake of discussion are Children's Hospital Dallas, Parkland Hospital, Presbyterian Hospital, and Baylor Medical Center.

 

First here is a visual reference so everything will actually make sense:

plurm.jpg

 

I am perceiving this as a larger issue than it is?

 

or how this busy airspace is handled on a day to day basis?

 

I see all sorts of flight pushing the air over Dallas everyday and I find it amazing that we have this much air activity in such an enclosed space (and I only included the larger airports) is this not as out of the ordinary as I think?

 

Yes, you perceive this as a larger issue than it is. Like you said, you see it day after day without incident. It's all being handled within the FAA/FAR/ATC system.

 

In addition to the other post, most all of the airspace you’re referencing is class B and D which is under the authority of Air Traffic Control (ATC) which is responsible for the safe, orderly and expeditious flow of air traffic.

 

The general rule of FAR 91.113 b.) applies for the remaining lower airspace (class G and E) that states, vigilance shall be maintained by each person operating an aircraft so as to see and avoid other aircraft.

 

However, with the routes you’ve listed it appears aircraft will be in radio contact with and assisted by ATC during the major part of their route. Since this airspace is so busy, the FAA has even defined and documented helicopter flight routes inside the DFW area.

 

The routes can be found on the “DFW Metoplex Helicopter Route Chart”. Since ATC and most helicopter operators are familiar with these routes and the required radio frequencies, an orderly air traffic flow is normally maintained. There’s over thirty hospitals listed on that chart.

DFW Metoplex Helicopter Route Chart

 

You’re right DFW is busy airspace. The last I checked, DFW international was #7 on the worlds most busiest airports under three other US airports, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta (#1), Chicago O’Hare (#2), and LAX (#6).

Edited by iChris
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