The T3 Helistop at PHX

I show a fellow pilot my favorite LZ at Sky Harbor.

It’s a little-known fact that there’s a helistop atop the Terminal 3 parking structure at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. This is where I pick up passengers for Flying M Air‘s multi-day excursions. It’s extremely convenient, not only for my passengers, but for me.

PHX Helistop
This diagram of the Terminal 3 Helistop refers to the old tower, but it no longer exists. This is part of the Sharp Echo letter of agreement for helicopter pilots operating at Sky Harbor.

I’ve been landing at the helistop since it reopened in 2007. It’s been there for a long time but was closed while they built the new FAA tower beside it. When the new tower opened and they took down the old one, they opened the helistop back up.

I blogged about landing there at night. I also put a video of a daytime landing there on this site and Viddler.

When I say few people know about the helistop, I’m not kidding. The last passengers I picked up there said they’d asked at least six people at Sky Harbor how to get to it and every one of them had told them it didn’t exist. Then they followed my instructions to go to the top of the Terminal 3 parking structure and there it was. Just as I’d told them.

I don’t think too may pilots know about it either — and that’s okay with me. There’s only room for one helicopter up there and if someone’s already there when I need to use it, I’m out of luck until it leaves. It’s not a parking spot — it’s a landing spot. That means that although I can land there, I can’t leave the helicopter there for any extended length of time. I also can’t just walk away. That’s why it’s up to my passengers to find it without my help. I simply can’t leave the helicopter to find them.

My friend, Don, who also flies an R44 Raven II, often needs to pick up his wife and other family members at Sky Harbor. When I mentioned the helistop to him, he wanted to know more. So I explained the intricacies of flying into Phoenix Class Bravo airspace in a helicopter, which is much easier than you might think. I also told him how I make my approach to and departure from the helistop. The conversation ended with me promising to fly with him for a landing there.

Don't Helicopter at PHX
Are we a bunch of tourists or what? Mike jumped out to take this shot of us when we landed on the helistop. Don’s flying; I’m in the front passenger seat.

We made the flight yesterday afternoon. My husband, Mike, came along for the ride, too. I recommended to Don that he not do the trip with a heavy load. The landing is a confined space pinnacle — yes, there are such things — so it needs to be approached with care. As shown in the diagram above, there’s only one way in and out. A heavy load on a hot day — or with a tailwind — could make for a dangerous situation.

Anyway, the flight was uneventful. The airspace was pretty quiet. Just one Southwest Airlines 737 landing as we came in; Don slipped in behind him. He came into the pad a bit lower than I would have, but the landing was smooth. Mike hopped out to take this photo. Then he climbed back in, Don called the tower again, and we took off right behind the next landing 737.

I just hope that Don’s helicopter isn’t sitting on that helistop the next time I need to land there.

2 thoughts on “The T3 Helistop at PHX

  1. They are doing a “one pint something” billion dollar expansion on our local International airport, and fortunately we have picked up some of the construction for the project. I asked the General Contractor if there were plans for a helipad on the terminal expansion-nope. Not one. Sure, you can land two miles away at the other corner of the airport, but nothing near the terminal. It would be great to blast in and pick up or drop off passengers. I’ve been picked up at LAX several times-there must be 6 or 8 parking pads on top of the parkade there. Another thing I noticed when flying over US cities-the roof top helipads that you have. Not even one of those in Downtown Calgary. There is a downtown heliport, but nothing rooftop. I guess we’re just going to have to accept that we are behind in times.

    • Matt: I think it’s something you need to work with your local equivalent of the FAA. Get a bunch of helicopter operators — businesses that do air taxi, etc — and approach the FAA with a request. Use the examples in the US to bolster your case. You might also get assistance from HAI (the “I” does stand for “international”) and AOPA. It’ll take some doing and your group will need to be able to show how such facilities would benefit the city/airport/public.

      Or you can just accept that you’re behind the times… :-(

What do you think?