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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Heliports : their location in the central business district. Wieler, Verner Jacob


The helicopter represents a revolutionary approach to flight. Its most important characteristic is its flexibilily; it climbs and descends vertically, it hovers in mid-air, and it travels at relatively slow and fast speeds. Therefore, it presents a vehicle which has great potential in operating within or directly above the physically dense central business district, carrying passenger and freight traffic. Helicopter transportation is now taking root in several large metropolitan cities, and more cities are considering the installation of such a service. It appears that the helicopter will become a strong member of the urban transportation system in the near future, and therefore steps should be taken in advance of its advent to insure a proper location of the heliport, as well as an efficient route pattern within the metropolitan city. It is felt that the helicopter will be most restricted in its operation within the central business district, and at the same time will carry its greatest payload in and out of the central business district. Therefore, the location of one or a pattern of heliports within the central business district, becomes a fundamental issue to helicopter transportation. Several studies have been undertaken which considered the heliport location in light of the technical requirements of the helicopter, and to some degree the potential traffic which the helicopter might bear. The heliport location criteria which evolved reflected this more general approach, particularly to traffic generating areas. The studies did not consider individual land uses which might directly or indirectly cause the failure of a heliport because the particular characteristics of the land uses could not support helicopter transportation. Using former studies, therefore, as a basis for further research, this study has attempted to analyze traffic generating areas as they affect helicopter transportation. In this respect, the land uses of the central business district and the traffic that such land uses create have become the focal point of the study. The study draws certain conclusions with respect to heliport locations in the central business district. First; it recognizes the overlapping effects of specific land uses and the technical limitations of the helicopter on the choice of location. Although it is felt the land use factors are essentially determining over a period of time, the technical limitations create problems which must be dealt with, with equal urgency, and in some cases might initially control location. However, in all cases, the land use factors should receive precedence in the establishment of location criteria. It is the land use criteria that will determine the long-range success of the helicopter service. Secondly; the heliport should be located in the "auto-oriented" areas of the central business district, but should be closely associated with the "walking" area of the specific types of central business district workers who may be expected to be the major users of helicopter transportation. Thirdly; the technical characteristics of the helicopter require that the heliport have an area of approximately four acres. In addition, it should have a bi-directional approach route with an obstruction profile ratio minimum of 1:8, with allowance for emergency landings outward to the critical point in the take-off pattern. The problem of noise associated with the helicopter in flight have been mentioned only in passing, this involves a detailed study of the mechanical parts of the helicopter which the author could not discuss with authority. However, the noise will have its affect on adjacent land uses to a considerable degree. The onus is on the helicopter manufacturer to attempt to reduce the noise to a compatible level. The location of a heliport on a water-front site seems particularly advantageous with respect to the lower cost of land and an obstruction-free landing and departure route. However, if the water-front location cannot satisfy the land use criteria which have been developed, and which generate the traffic potential, then such a location would prove to be inadequate. Furthermore, harbour regulations pertaining to shipping in the area may result in the negation of the values of a particular water-front location from the standpoint of the land use criteria. The study was limited in obtaining sufficient data on land use in relation to the movement of central business district workers. Such research is now underway but only to a limited degree. It is felt that the contribution of this study lies in its attempt to point out the influence of land uses on the generation of traffic, and the helicopter service developing on the basis of what traffic the specific land uses are generating.

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