Late one night I was returning to base in an EMS helicopter and, on short final, noticed water spraying onto the helipad. It was a ground-based helipad and the temperature had dropped below zero causing a lawn sprinkler pipe to burst. After a radio call, the water was shut off and I started my approach again. There was only a small corner of the pad that was not wet, and with the temperature below freezing, I decided to put the helicopter in that dry spot. There were no more flights that night so when the day pilot showed up I explained why the helicopter was in the corner and headed home.
Arriving at work the following night the day pilot told me the chief pilot saw the helicopter parked in the corner and asked that I call him. On the phone I explained why it was there, he listened but expressed concern that the four-foot high chain-link fence was too close to the rotor disk. He added that our operations manual states that the rotor blade tip of a running helicopter must be 12 feet from any object or obstruction. He emphasized the word “any” and stated the manual does not allow for exceptions. I explained that I believe the intent was to mean 12 feet from the rotor tip to an object at the rotor height (such as a building), not in every direction. He disagreed.
The reason I do not believe the intent was meant in every direction was it would have precluded us from landing at several hospitals that had planted two-foot-high shrubs around their heliport. Further, many scene landings on roads placed the rotor tip within 12 feet of curbs and small temporary concrete barriers. Finally, there must be at least one exception–the helicopter’s rotor height is 10 feet, placing the ground within 12 feet of the rotor tip. I understand the need for rules, but they should be clear, concise, and appropriate.