GA Buyer Europe November 2020

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Managing Yachts & Helicopters: an Easy Mix? In almost every area, yacht and helicopter regulations are different, so how can owners manage the difficult task of successfully operating in both worlds?

By Charlotte Pedersen, CEO, Luxaviation Helicopters Cleverly and lucratively combining yacht and helicopter operations is a hot trend right now. And, based on our experiences at Luxaviation Helicopters, it’s a trend set to continue and thrive for years ahead. Often, we’re supporting companies with demanding transportation needs or private individuals sailing around the Mediterranean or Caribbean. Sometimes, though, our clients have particularly adventurous requirements. Presently, for example, we’re working on a project to provide commercial helicopters for an expeditionary cruise ship heading to locations from Greenland to Antarctica. With capacity for 200 passengers, the ship will carry two helicopters for trips to shore and medevac missions if necessary.

Find the Right Helicopter and Pilots You’ll need to choose a suitable helicopter for maritime missions. We always stress to clients the reliability of twin-engine helicopters for yacht operations. Twin engines provide much more than just doubling up on your systems: you also get autopilot equipment and IFR capability which, combined, provides you with a much safer operation at sea. In fact, in many places, including the UK, it’s a requirement to have a twin-engine helicopter to fly commercially to a yacht.

And so, as operating yachts and helicopters together grows in popularity, we find that we’re being involved in discussions at an increasingly early stage.

Two Sets of Regulations Firstly, owners must understand the need to comply with both yacht and helicopter regulations. A helideck on a yacht might, for example, be certified correctly (to meet yachting regulations) for a specific type of helicopter but have the aviation regulations for operating the helicopter to and from that deck been met too?

An expert management company can, for example, quickly advise on the need for a different kind of float on a potential client’s planned helicopter purchase, saving money on expensive future alterations. Owners should always take professional guidance to avoid overlooking critical requirements.

Yacht regulations only cover the operation/interaction of the vessel with the helideck, not the actual operation of the helicopter.

Smart manufacturers even take input on yacht operations from managers and operators when planning new helicopters to avoid costly and time-consuming redesigns.

You might, for example, have carefully checked your yacht regulations and found that they make no mention of needing lights on the helideck. But what if you would like to fly at night? Have you overlooked the complementary aviation regulations, which stipulate that for night operations the helideck must not only have lights, but that those lights must be dimmable?


Early Advice is Invaluable As in so many areas of transportation management and operation, planning is critical when working with yachts and helicopters. Good advice at the start of a project minimises the need for costly work and refits later.

So what should owners know when bringing the maritime and aviation worlds together?

Local regulations vary too, which could cause frustrations and restrictions as you travel the world if you’re not working with a globally knowledgeable and experienced management company, operator and crew.

Safe helicopter operations to and from sailing vessels demand highly qualified, experienced pilots. What else might you need from the pilot, though? Perhaps someone who is trained to fly in snowy, mountainous terrain, so you can take skiing trips? And, if you're travelling globally, you need a pilot who understands the local regulations and can speak the local language of wherever you’re flying to and from. Above all, you need an instrument rated pilot who can take you safely from A to B, even if the weather changes.

Commercial Gains

It’s important to know regulations are particularly strict if you wish to charter your yacht and helicopter. But the financial benefits of helicopter and yacht ownership together are beyond dispute, not just in chartering income, but also in the fact a helideck increases a vessel’s resale value (especially if certified for commercial operations). I