Aerial Filming and Airfields

Date: 05.06.2017     Last updated: 30.04.2018 at 13.19
A Safety Guideline to filming or recording when flying or when at small airfields (not large commercial hub airports). Aerial filming may be from helicopters, fixed wing aeroplanes, hot air balloons, microlights or gliders, both in the UK and internationally.

The key to getting great aerial footage  is planning, using an experienced operator who has filming experience and ensuing all aspects of the flight will be legal and in accordance with the relevant Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) or International equivalent. If in any doubt, please contact BBC Safety.

What Can Go Wrong?

  • Aircraft could be involved in an accident due to a variety of causes (e.g. bad weather, electrical or mechanical failure, flight crew/pilot error);
  • Helicopters can lose control if required to fly in a compromising way due to filming requirements (loss of tail rotor effectiveness);
  • Person or equipment could fall from, or be struck by, an aircraft or other vehicle at an airfield;
  • Prosecution of the Operator/Pilot for non-compliance with CAA rules or equivalent;
  • Insurance cover could be deemed invalid if the operator/pilot was not compliant with relevant legal requirements and the flight was considered illegal;
  • Exposure to high noise levels.

Legal/BBC Requirements

  • All aspects of aviation is highly regulated and strictly enforced by the CAA in the UK and internationally by their equivalent. If in doubt, get advice from BBC Safety and question the pilot if they will be fully compliant with all flying related legal requirements. Insurance may become void if a flight is considered illegal.
  • In the UK, it is mandatory you use the BBC Pre-Vetted supplier on myRisks for aerial filming.
  • If using someone not on pre-vetted list or working Internationally, you must check the following or speak to BBC Safety:
  • Air Operator Certificate or an equivalent document that authorises Public Transport; 
  • Air Worthiness Certificate or an equivalent document;
  • Pilot’s commercial licence, ideally with 1500 hrs or more, flying experience; 
  • Public & Passenger Liability Insurance including an Insurance Schedule and do check on the BBC Insurance website for the specific requirements on the type and level of cover needed;
  • When travelling on a non-scheduled flight or being flown by a Private Pilot, especially where there is a payment or value consideration of any form, such flights could be considered as Public Transport and are subject to strict CAA rules. Check with BBC Safety if there is any doubt;
  • If overseas check that you are not using  an airline on the EU Banned Airlines list. See myRisks page on Banned Airlines for more information.

Control Measures


  • Discuss and agree the shot-list and locations of aerial filming in advance with the Air Operator so they can plan their flight, obtain relevant permissions, select suitable take-off and landing locations, arrange refuelling requirements and manage safe flying hours etc;
  • Liaise with Air Operator before filming about expected weather conditions;
  • Arrange suitable harness for camera operator, safe stowage and mounting of filming equipment especially with external mounts or with doors open. Pilot to approve all fastenings prior to commencing flying;
  • If aircraft windows or doors need to be removed, check the operator has permission to fly with them off;
  • Ensure all persons in the aircraft are dressed appropriately, taking into consideration wind chill factor with the doors open;
  • If flying over water check this is allowed in that particular aircraft and ensure required safety equipment such as life jackets and life rafts are available.

On Location

  • Before going to any airfield (private, civil or military) permission must be obtained from the appropriate controlling body. The only exceptions are the spectators enclosure when visiting a civil airport, or on an open day at a military airfield;
  • Ensure all crew/contributors receive a safety briefing prior to the flight including emergency procedures (make sure you understand when and how to exit aircraft as well; how to quickly get out of any harness/restraints);
  • Do not to deviate from agreed plan. The Pilot’s decision is final; do not discuss their decision during the flight; a compromise could jeopardise everyone’s safety;
  • Don't walk close to propellers, rotors or engine air intake, even when seemingly switched off;
  • Don’t touch any external aircraft control surfaces, as fingers can get trapped;
  • Only approach take-off or landing positions, or cross airfields when authorised to do so by Pilot or ground crew;
  • When the engine is running don’t have any items or equipment outside the aircraft unless you have prior agreement from the Pilot;
  • Wear sensible clothing and footwear and if possible high visibility jackets. Airfields are open areas and weather effects can feel extreme;
  • Have earplugs available and use them if working near aircrafts with engines running;
  • Be observant and exercise caution at all times.

Type of Aircraft specific consideration:

  • Helicopters can fly low, slow and around a point of interest. This type of flying puts the helicopter at increased risk of an effect called 'Loss of Tail Rotor Effectiveness' (LTE). Pilots are trained to deal with this type of situation but it’s useful to highlight the issue with the pilot at planning stage particularly when filming overseas or with pilots with limited aerial filming experience.
  • Pilots of small fixed wing aircraft, micro lights, gliders, hang gliders and paragliders will typically be classed as private pilots belonging to a club and/or be a flight training organisation. Strict rules dictate what activities they can undertake and be paid for. Seek advice from BBC Safety and Insurance to ensure the flight will be considered legal.

Division Specific Issues

  • No division specific issues.

FAQs/Did You Know?

  • The Certificate of Air Worthiness may be compromised if equipment is mounted to the aircraft’s external surface. Discuss this with the Operator and obtain written confirmation that this would still be valid
  • Air Operators Certificate (AOCs) and Certificates of Airworthiness are not the same thing. One is for the company/operator and the other for the aircraft.

 Safety Guides - Quick Links

About this site

This site describes what the BBC does in relation to managing its health, safety and security risks and is intended for those who work directly for the BBC.

It is not intended to provide instruction or guidance on how third parties should manage their risks. The BBC cannot be held liable for how this information is interpreted or used by third parties, nor provide any assurance that adopting it would provide any measure of legal compliance. More information.

Links: Some links on this site are only accessible when connected to the BBC network