CAA International (CAAi) has reported that it has certified the UK’s first onshore elevated helipad with a deck-integrated firefighting system to the UK CAA CAP 1264 standard. The aviation consultancy, which forms part of the UK Civil Aviation Authority, noted that the construction phase of the helipad was managed by Watts Group Limited during a period when UK best practice was transitioning from Health Building Note (HBN) 15:03 to UK CAA CAP 1264, the latest UK design and operational standards for helicopter landing areas at hospitals.
Following an in-depth review of the helipad drawings, the feasibility study and comprehensive onsite inspections by UK CAA Regulators, the Bayard’s-built helipad was given the green light for helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) and air ambulance operations, said CAAi. To meet the design requirements of ICAO Annex 14 (Volume II) and the latest CAP 1264, the helipad’s physical characteristics (surface, tie-down points, safety net, and access points), environmental and operational factors, visual aids and firefighting systems all had to be assessed, said the organisation.
Tim Messer, project director for Watts Group Limited, said: “To achieve UK CAA compliance, we had to increase the water storage tanks from 8m3 to 20m3. The system also required new foam mixing equipment, larger pumps and associated controls. The CAA certification gives assurance that HEMS operations at Kings College Hospital can operate safely and best serve patients in time-critical conditions.”
When the helipad opened in October, the Hospital said it would save thousands of lives, helping the centre to serve its trauma population of 4.5 million people across south east London and Kent. Built on top of the hospital’s 10-storey Ruskin Wing, the helipad was made possible thanks to a multimillion-pound donation from the County Air Ambulance HELP Appeal. In addition, more than 2,600 patients, staff, and members of the local community generously donated £500,000 to the Hospital’s Time is Life Appeal. The majority of the cost of the project was due to adaptations made to the building as part of the project.
The helipad’s deck integrated firefighting (DIFF) system automatically sprays foam from a series of nozzles installed into the helideck in the event of a fire, instead of relying on a team of firefighters to manually extinguish it. The Hospital said that using the automated fire system will save it £300,000 each year compared to employing firefighters.
The new helipad has been built to speed up the time it takes helicopters to transfer critically ill patients to King’s and reduce ‘landing-to-resus’ transfer times to just five minutes. Previously, helicopters had to land in nearby Ruskin Park and patients faced a transfer of up to 25 minutes by road.