Helicopter movement area reinforced

  • Published
  • By Major Lee Newton
  • 341st Space Wing Chief of Flight Safety
Malmstrom Air Force Base had a primary fixed-wing mission until 1996. What remains today looks like an old airfield and the perception by many that the runway is no longer active often causes confusion. Adding to the confusion, until recently, was the existence of old signs around the runway. They have recently been removed. All the old, no longer valid, flight line signs are relocated to their correct positions. Malmstrom personnel need to comply with all signs on the flight line. 

If you've ever been stationed at a flying wing, you know how important flight line control is. If our runway was still active, it would be a Controlled Movement Area, and limited to operations supporting the flying mission. However, much of the old airfield at Malmstrom has been converted for current mission requirements and sees activities such as the physical fitness test running course, the skid monster course, Malmstrom Aviation Club and motorcycle safety training. But we must all remember, in the middle of the old airfield is a very active heliport.. 

The 40th Helicopter Squadron provides outstanding support to the wing's ICBM mission. They have an unprecedented safety record! Zero aviation mishaps to report for years. A great deal of effort goes into earning such an enviable safety record from the pilots that fly, the maintainers that keep them flying, and the people that maintain and manage the heliport. 

To keep this outstanding record, we need your help. Keeping the heliport safe requires the attention and cooperation of the base community. Part of keeping our heliport safe is maintaining positive control of vehicle traffic on or near the helicopter parking areas, taxiways, hover areas, and take off and landing areas. All of these areas just described make up the helicopter movement area or HMA.

Malmstrom AFB - Helicopter Movement Area

A few months ago, I noted that some old signs were left over from the tanker days and located in places that are no longer controlled areas. This created a dangerous situation where people where in the habit of ignoring signs. So we immediately removed old signs and the 341st Civil Engineer Squadron has now placed all signs in their proper locations around the active heliport. The figure below shows the heliport boundaries and posted sign locations.

Space Wing Instruction 13-213 governs the administration of Malmstrom's heliport. It states that driving on the HMA is strictly prohibited unless you are directly supporting helicopters or the heliport in a GOV. Individuals who perform these support functions on a regular basis must be trained to drive vehicles on the HMA and know how to coordinate vehicle movements with the 40th HS. Special cases for HMA access can be made by coordinating with Flight Safety at 731-6727. A wing exercise being conducted near the HMA does not negate the requirement to properly coordinate all vehicle crossings or movements where helicopters are operating any more than it would negate the requirement to properly process onto the weapons storage area, a missile alert facility, or a launch facility. The 40th HS monitors the HMA and coordinates mission essential vehicle access. 

Based on the HMA driving infractions I have seen at Malmstrom, I thought these tips would benefit the base community.
1. Always assume that helicopters are flying.
2. Always call the 40th HS at 731-3250 to coordinate all heliport crossings. (Only legitimate access will be authorized.)
3. Always honor the barriers and signs. The HMA is now clearly marked!
4. All areas around the heliport are accessible without cutting across the HMA.
5. If you supervise personnel that drive near or adjacent to the HMA, brief them on the HMA boundaries

Keeping strict control over vehicle traffic in the HMA is vital to helicopter safety. All the movements that helicopters and vehicles make on the HMA are based on well-sequenced coordination, predictability and precise rules governing heliport operations. Unauthorized vehicles on the HMA create an unacceptable risk to our helicopter's state of readiness, and create an unnecessary danger to the driver and passengers in the vehicle. Knowing how to perform your mission correctly near a flight line is a valuable skill that can benefit you throughout your career as an Airman. 

Thank you and know we appreciate you doing your part to eliminate this hazard and maintain the wing's perfect flight safety record.