Click for Mag Bay Click for Nordhavn Click for DeAngelo Click for Stats Click for JetForums

Helicopters and Yachts

Discussion in 'General Yachting Discussion' started by olderboater, May 12, 2017.

  1. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2013
    Messages:
    3,900
    Location:
    Fort Lauderdale
    I know on larger yachts, helipads are common and I know many owners who use helicopters extensively to and from boats. I guess I'd like to hear from those who either do now or have crewed in some way for owners who used them, and some of the circumstances and benefits. Questions like how far from a port was the boat? How far would the boat have needed to alter course to pick them up or drop them on land? What would have been the alternative if no pad on the boat? Really just trying to understand the use and the benefit vs. the risks involved as well as the space sacrificed on the boat.
  2. Norseman

    Norseman Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2005
    Messages:
    1,759
    Location:
    Ft. Lauderdale
    I have crewed on boats with a helipad:
    A big H painted on the foredeck with a circle around it.
    Not a Yacht, which is what you are looking for, but couldn't resist.

    228,000 supertanker with scheduled runs from the Persian Gulf to Europort in Rotterdam.
    If the owner was not cheap he would send out a helicopter as we rounded Cape of Good Hope with mail, newspapers and perhaps fresh veggies and fruit.
  3. HTMO9

    HTMO9 Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2009
    Messages:
    1,256
    Location:
    Europe
    The average turbine powered helicopters for yacht operations, i.e. Bell 206/7, 407, 429 or the equivalent Eurocopter up to the EC 145 have a useful range with pax and or cargo of app. 300 NM plus reserves. Unless the yacht has refueling facilities, the typical radius of action for offshore operations (non commercial, not oil business) is app. 150 NM, means 1 to 1.5 hours of flying time to/from shore or ship. From 150 NM to 500 NM distance it would be the job for an amphibious floatplane. Larger Helicopters like Sikorski 76 or equivalent are a different world with much larger yachts, like Dilbar or Catara. And yachts of that size have certified Helidecks with refueling facility and proper rescue and fire fighting equipment and most of all dedicated , trained and certified personel on board as permanent part of the crew.

    Very few (relatively :)) normal sized yachts (less than 3.000 GT) carry a helicopter on board permanently. An even lower number of yachts of that size have shelter for a real Helicopter (toys like Robinson 22/44 and some of those microlight 2-seat Italian Helos are IMHO no real helicopters for permanent operation over larger bodies of water, even with floats). Except may be for those circumnavigators like Ken Bracewell and his yacht, the permanent helo is the exemption.

    Picking up passengers or dropping them off on a yacht in voyage, requires either a very proficient and certified helicopter charter company with well trained pilots and trained crew members on board the ship. I could not think of a Helicopter Company flying a passenger to an unknown yacht without prior briefing and knowing the ships and crews abilities. Picking up a person (crew or passenger) for some urgent and serious reason (illness, emergency) is a different story. I, myself have picked up a crew member from a ship (sailboat) without a helipad by hovering over the tender and the person was handed over. But this was a very serious reason.

    Again we are talking about yachts, not a cargo ship with a landing spot with the size of a tennis court.

    Cargo or spare parts are a different story again. They can be winched or carried on a long line on the central cargo hook (called long liner). A person can be winched too but as far as I know, ladies are not very fond of hanging under a helicopter in sling or sitting in a basket. If the helo is based on the yacht, I would assume, the pilot(s) are proficient and well trained and so is the ships crew and both sides ar familiar with the other.

    There is a common practice in Europe with commercial helicopter pilots, that they have to have at least 2.500 hours of flying time in helicopters in order to act as pilot in command for such delicate duties. And I do not know of any helipilot which would ever land on a yacht with passenger without prior testing / training it with the empty helicopter before. The other problem with employed heli pilots as it is with business jet pilots her in Europe and this even in non commercial operation, the have not only a maximum flying time per year as dictated by law, they also have a minimum guaranteed flying time per year, usually 150 to 200 hours. So, if you hire one, better make sure, you can keep him busy.

    A helo deck on a private, non commercial operating yacht does not have to be certified. But I would at least stick to some minimum safety standards. Safety is non-negotiable !! IMHO, the diameter of the helideck should be at least equivalent to rotor diameter (D value). The strenght of the deck should be at least take the weight of the Helo at max. gross weight plus some reserve for a harder landing. The 2.6 safety margin of the LYC is for private non frequent use not of biggest importance. But proper firefighting and rescue equipment should be present and dedicated crew members on the ship should have proper training.

    Flying is quite easy, even I have learned it but flying turbine helicopters with passenger in maritime environment and operate them out and into confined, sometimes rocking spaces, I leave to professionals.
  4. Ken Bracewell

    Ken Bracewell Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2006
    Messages:
    1,195
    Location:
    Somewhere Sunny
    I have a bit of experience in this area, and have also been monitoring the Bacarella incident with great interest and sadness.
    The primary purpose of our helicopter is sight-seeing; it is rarely used for running parts, provisions, guests, etc ashore. We generally take off from the vessel, and return without landing anywhere at all (occasionally a picnic). As HTMO9 correctly stated, the range is roughly 300 miles, and we almost never run that distance.
    The other (unspoken) use for the machine is as a medivac in case of a health emergency. We are rarely more than 300nm from a runway that could accommodate a medivac plane, and I keep track of those distances and options regularly.
    OB mentions the risks involved, and those shouldn't be ignored. That being said, they can be significantly mitigated by regular training and continued operations. The more often you fly, the more prepared the crew (flight and deck) are with the possible scenarios. It looked to me as if Bacarella fairly new with their flight operations, and were obviously ill-prepared. My deck crew each (multiple sets of eyes) walk the decks prior to any take-off, and then again prior to landings, looking for possible hazards. We also keep a rescue tender in the water as a precaution during flight operations. Flights are only undertaken in fine (blue-bird) weather, and calm seas.
    We also have a flight-mechanic that regularly checks the aircraft for air-worthiness and signs of corrosion. Any item that comes up is dealt with immediately.
  5. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2013
    Messages:
    3,900
    Location:
    Fort Lauderdale
    Your landing pad appears also to be substantially larger too, Ken. And I know your preparations and both flight and boat crew are very well prepared and maintenance is top flight.
  6. HTMO9

    HTMO9 Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2009
    Messages:
    1,256
    Location:
    Europe
    I have to agree with Ken on all points, well said. I especially like his SOP with the rescue boat in the water and manned with qualified crew during helo operations. I can personally tell as a helicopter pilot and many sea survival trainings in the military and during my active seatime, the first two to three minutes after a helicopter crashes in the water (which most of the time capsizes after impact), are decicive for survival. Such SOP is paramount for save helicopter operations. Hats off Ken, you are a professional.

Share This Page