I was riding in a helicopter above downtown recently and saw giant numbers, most of them “10s,” in circles on the helipads of the buildings. What do they represent?

    If you owned the building and your chopper wasn’t loaded with lead, you could have landed on one of those pads—the numbers indicate the weight limit (“10” is shorthand for 10,000 pounds). An ordinance passed in 1974 mandated landing pads for any new buildings more than 75 feet tall (to accommodate helicopters fighting fires). Only executives, building owners, and dignitaries can use the docking stations, though getting around by helicopter might seem a bit gauche. A wayward machine touching down at a private port “would be like somebody parking their car in your front yard,” says command pilot Glenn Smith of the L.A. Fire Department.
    Illustration by Zohar Lazar