Helipads for Safe Flights and Landings

Durable aluminium used in offshore construction, and on land too.
30 May, 2017
Helicopters are used in a wide range of private-sector industries, from offshore oilrigs to hospitals to corporate landing zones.
While the aviation focus is usually on the flying machines, they also need safe places to land and take off – and that's where quality helipads, built from aluminium, are important.

The New Royal Adelaide Hospital is an excellent example. It's due for completion in 2017, and will be among Australia's most technologically advanced hospitals. Innovations include a fleet of automated robotic vehicles to help move supplies, meals and equipment around the hospital, and a customized patient electronic medical record. But critically injured or ill patients need to get there too, and many arrive or are transferred out by air. Fortunately, the hospital's new helipad is state-of-the-art too.
Built by Aluminium Offshore, the "Enhanced Safety" helipad by Aluminium Offshore is the largest in South Australia. It measures 54m long by 27m wide, and is designed to accommodate two helicopters weighing up to 11 metric tons at any one time. It represents a milestone for the company, because it is the largest helipad ever designed and built for Australia – and especially for its seismic location.

Among major Australian cities, Adelaide is in the part of the country with the highest risk of earthquakes. As a result, the helipad needed to be designed to withstand earthquake loads. That meant that this helipad needed special features, like an expansion joint between the helipad and linkbridge to prevent damage during earthquakes. It also has vibration dampers installed to cancel out the wind-induced vibration, a normal part of helicopter operations, from reaching occupants and equipment below the helipad roof.
The hospital benefits from the expertise the company has gained in 500 helipad installations in more than two dozen countries, including previous hospital landing sites across Australia. Many of them are installed on ocean platforms, in ports or on the ships themselves.

They include the Ekofisk Complex in the North Sea, which is a critical offshore operating center. It serves as a communications hub, manages all regional air and sea traffic, and has office space and a cafeteria, along with housing for health care providers and 552 single-cabin beds for workers. In short, Ekofisk is a small city that – like all other offshore operations, whether in Norway or Nigeria – needs air transport options.
For Aluminium Offshore, that meant building the 28.5 cantilevered meter helipad deck and its support structures, a traffic control center, stair and antenna towers, and related features. All told, the company used more than 300 metric tons of aluminium alloy in constructing the Ekofisk site.

Like its counterpart at the Adelaide hospital, the helipad needs to hold up under heavy traffic. In the middle of the North Sea, that means up to 50 flights per day. It also poses the question: why aluminium?
For one thing, the helipads hold up under that kind of traffic and in harsh environments. On top of that, the lightweight of aluminium is widely known. The helipad structures weigh 40 to 50 percent less than their steel counterparts. For offshore operations, they also have to be moved to deep water sites and installed there, so weight matters. The material also is noncorrosive and requires less maintenance. Additionally, fire suppression and other crucial safety features needed at sea or on land are built-in.
Banner image: Aluminium Offshore