Version 1.0



Model Code

of Conduct



Tools to advance helicopter flight
safety and professionalism



Text Box:  
The Helicopter Pilots Model Code of Conduct (HMCC) offers recommendations to advance helicopter flight safety, airmanship, and professionalism.

The Code of Conduct presents a vision of excellence for helicopter pilots. Its principles complement and underscore legal requirements.

The FAA Practical Test Standards (PTS) and comparable international materials set the standard of evaluation for pilot certification. As such, the PTS focus mainly on basic flying knowledge and skills. However, standards and regulations by themselves do not provide a framework for how to think and act in situations that may not be covered by procedures, checklists, or operating manuals. In contrast, the HMCC articulates broader guidance—a set of values—to help a pilot interpret and apply standards and regulations, and to confront the real world challenges that could lead to a mishap. The Code of Conduct is a model, not a standard.


Users may customize this document—including title, length, and organization—to suit their needs. An abbreviated version of the Code of Conduct suitable for lamination is available at <>. For further help with customization see “Additional Resources” (below).


The Code of Conduct will be most effective if users commit to the pursuit of professionalism as well as a firm grasp of the fundamentals of flight.

The Code of Conduct has seven sections, each presenting Principles and Sample Recommended Practices.


The Sections:

        I.       General Responsibilities of Helicopter Pilots

     II.       Passengers and People on the Surface

   III.       Training and Proficiency

  IV.       Security

     V.       Environmental Issues

  VI.       Use of Technology

VII.       Advancement and Promotion of Aviation

The Sample Recommended Practices:

Sample Recommended Practices are suggestions for applying the principles of the Code of Conduct and tailoring them to pilots, owners, and operators. Sample Recommended Practices may be reordered, modified or eliminated to satisfy the unique capabilities and requirements of each pilot, mission, helicopter, organization, and flight environment. They are not presented in any order of importance. Instrument flight rule (IFR)-specific Sample Recommended Practices generally appear last.


The Commentary:

Commentary on selected provisions of the Code of Conduct provides discussion, interpretive guidance, and suggested ways to adopt it. Intended primarily for flight department managers, policy administrators, and pilots who wish to explore the Code in greater depth, the Commentary is available at <>. Published commentary on any provision does not imply greater importance of that provision. Additional provisions will be added as the Commentary evolves.


Benefits of the Code of Conduct:

The Code of Conduct benefits helicopter pilots and the aviation community by:

Note: References to the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are used as examples. In all jurisdictions, applicable laws and regulations must be followed.


Helicopter Pilots
Model Code of Conduct
Principles and
Recommended Practice


I.  General Responsibilities of Helicopter Pilots

   Helicopter pilots should:

  1. make safety the highest priority,

  2. seek excellence in airmanship,

  3. develop and exercise good judgment and sound principles of aeronautical decision-making,

  4. use sound principles of risk management to recognize and manage risks effectively,

  5. maintain situational awareness, and adhere to prudent operating practices and personal operating parameters (e.g., minimums),

  6. aspire to professionalism,

  7. act with responsibility and courtesy, and

  8. adhere to applicable laws, regulations, and industry guidance.

Explanation:  These General Responsibilities serve as a preamble to the Code of Conduct’s other principles.

Sample Recommended Practices


II. Passengers and People on the Surface

   Helicopter pilots should:

  1. maintain passenger safety first and then passenger comfort,

  2. manage (and avoid unnecessary) risk to passengers, to people and property on the surface, and to people in other aircraft,

  3. brief passengers on flight and emergency procedures, and inform them of any significant or unusual risk associated with the flight,

  4. seek to prevent unsafe conduct by passengers, and

  5. avoid operations that may alarm, disturb, or endanger passengers or people on the surface.

Explanation:  Pilots are responsible for the safety and comfort of their passengers. Passengers place their lives and trust in pilots’ hands, and pilots should exercise due care on their behalf. Such care includes, but is not limited to, disclosing risks, and exercising prudent risk management. Pilot responsibility extends to people on the ground and in other aircraft.

Sample Recommended Practices:

III. Training and Proficiency

   Helicopter pilots should:

  1. participate in regular training to maintain proficiency beyond minimum requirements,

  2. participate in flight safety education programs,

  3. remain vigilant and avoid complacency,

  4.  train to recognize and deal effectively with emergencies,

  5. prepare for and review each lesson carefully, and

  6. maintain an accurate log to document training and currency.

Explanation:  Training and proficiency underlie aviation safety. Recurrent training is a primary component of proficiency and should include both air and ground training. Each contributes significantly to flight safety and neither can substitute for the other. To be most effective, training must often exceed legal requirements.

Sample Recommended Practices:


IV. Security

   Helicopter pilots should:

  1. seek to maintain the security of all persons and property associated with their aviation activities,

  2. remain vigilant and immediately report suspicious, reckless, or illegal activities,

  3. become familiar with the latest security regulations, and

  4. avoid special-use airspace except when approved or necessary in an emergency.

Explanation:  Security pertains to measures taken to protect aircraft and/or occupants from criminal or terrorist acts. It also includes measures taken by pilots to avoid inadvertently becoming a real or perceived security threat. Enhanced security awareness is essential to the safety and viability of the aviation community. Threats to security demand effective responses. This section addresses the pilot’s essential role in promoting national security and preventing criminal acts.

Sample Recommended Practices:

V. Environmental Issues

   Helicopter pilots should:

  1. recognize and seek to mitigate the environmental impact of helicopter operations,

  2. minimize the discharge of fuel, oil, and other chemicals into the environment during refueling, preflight preparations, servicing, and flight operations,

  3. respect and protect environmentally sensitive areas,

  4. comply with applicable noise-abatement procedures and mitigate aircraft noise near noise-sensitive areas, and

  5. adhere to prudent hazardous materials handling procedures.

Explanation:  Environmental issues can hamper operations, increase regulatory burdens, and close airports and helipads. Reducing pollution caused by aviation will reduce health problems, protect the environment, and lessen unfavorable public perceptions.

Sample Recommended Practices:

VI. Use of Technology

   Helicopter pilots should:

  1. become familiar with and properly use appropriate technologies,

  2. monitor applicable airport advisory frequencies and report position accurately when approaching airports without an operating control tower and other higher-risk areas,

  3. use transponders or other position-indicating technologies during flight operations, as directed by ATC. Use ATC radar advisories for VFR enroute operations,

  4. carry redundant transceivers and navigational equipment and use them in appropriate circumstances, and

  5. use flight simulators and training devices as available and appropriate.

Explanation:  Innovative, compact, and inexpensive technologies have greatly expanded the capabilities of helicopters. This section encourages the use and promotion of such safety-enhancing technologies.

Sample Recommended Practices:

VII. Advancement and Promotion
of Aviation

   Helicopter pilots should:

  1. advance and promote aviation safety and adherence to this Code of Conduct,

  2. participate in and contribute to organizations that promote aviation, and volunteer their skills to contribute to society at large—and encourage other pilots to do so as well,

  3. demonstrate appreciation for aviation professionals and service providers,

  4. advance an aviation culture that values openness, humility, positive attitudes, and the pursuit of personal improvement,

  5. promote ethical behavior within the aviation community, and

  6. mentor new and future helicopter pilots.

Explanation:  Vigilance and action are essential to ensure aviation vitality and to enhance the aviation community.

Sample Recommended Practices:

Additional Resources

Further information about helicopter aviation is available at:

HAI:              <>

IHST:            <>

FAA:             <>, <>

AEA:             <>

AOPA:          <>

EAA:             <>

NBAA:          <>

NEMSPA:    <>


AD                   Airworthiness Directive

AI                     Attitude Indicator

AFSS               Automated Flight Service Station

AGL                 Above Ground Level

ATC                 Air Traffic Control

CRM                Crew Resource Management

FAA                 Federal Aviation Administration

FBO                 Fixed Base Operator

HTAWS           Helicopter Terrain and Warning Systems

IFR                   Instrument Flight Rules

ILS                   Instrument Landing System

IMC                 Instrument Meteorological Conditions

IIMC                Inadvertent IMC

IPC                   Instrument Proficiency Check

MSL                 Mean Sea Level

NVG                Night Vision Goggles

OGE                 Out-of-Ground Effect

PF                    Pilot Flying

PM                   Pilot Monitoring

PTS                  Practical Test Standards

RFM                Rotorcraft Flight Manual

SB                    Service Bulletin

SOP                 Standard Operating Procedure

SMS                 Safety Management System

SRM                Single Pilot Resource Management

TFR                  Temporary Flight Restrictions

VFR                 Visual Flight Rules

VMC                Visual Meteorological Conditions


The [insert your organization’s Code of Conduct] is a customized version of the Aviators Model Code of Conduct created by Michael S. Baum. ©2003-2013 Michael S. Baum. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use are available at <>.

Pilots and the aviation community may use the Code of Conduct as a resource for code of conduct development, although it is recommended that this be supported by independent research on the suitability of its principles for specific or local applications and situations. It is not intended to provide legal advice and must not be relied upon as such.

Edits, Errata, Comments

The Helicopter Pilots Model Code of Conduct is a living document, intended to be updated periodically to reflect changes in aviation practices and the aviation environment. Please send your suggestions, edits, errata, questions and comments to: <>.


The Code of Conduct has had the benefit of extensive editorial comment and suggestions by a diverse body of the aviation community, and beyond. See “Acknowledgments” at <>. The Permanent Editorial Board of the Code of Conduct is presented at <>.


This QR Code points to <>, the Code of Conduct website: