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The Sky is Your Starting Point - Aim Higher

Updated: Mar 17, 2023

Mere mortals might think that flying a helicopter is pretty impressive from A to B on most routes but how about we take it one step further and have them on take off and land from yachts. And not just any yacht at that.


As to the optimal size of the helipad, first of all, as a rule, helipads can appear on yachts not shorter than 45 meters LOA. This is of course all taking place while in the middle of moving water.



Having a helicopter on your superyacht allows you to get to places you never thought possible. While there may not always be a place to dock your yacht in certain luxurious locations, having a helicopter onboard allows you access to even the most exclusive spots.



According to industry insiders as of 2006, as many as 200 yachts worldwide were outfitted with helicopter decks.


Let's hear it from some of the most professional yacht helicopter pilots out there as to some of the myths surrounding helicopters and yachts thanks to Domizia Marini of Helicopter Services Group throwing the topic out there for some of the pilots' attention to answer.


HELICOPTER MYTHS VS REALITIES

Are helicopters dangerous to fly?

  • Yes totally

  • Not at all, super safe

  • Not sure


Feedback from Captain Alvise


They are naturally unstable machines and they are more sensitive to bad weather weather (think high winds, icing conditions and low visibility) and they generally land at unprepared locations close to obstacles and exposed to debris that may be tossed up by the blade downwash, so they are not inherently dangerous, however they are more dangerous than flying on commercial airline.


Feedback from Captain Pascal


No, safer than driving in a car.


Feedback from Captain Spencer


While it's true that helicopter accidents can be more dangerous than those involving fixed-wing aircraft, modern helicopters are very safe when flown by a qualified and experienced pilot. In fact, helicopters undergo rigorous maintenance and inspections to ensure their safety. Furthermore, many accidents occur due to human error rather than the inherent danger of the helicopter itself.


Feedback from Captain Cristina


A well mantained helicopter is not dangerous to fly ever. The pilot’s skills, decision making and experience are what makes a difference. The machine itself is dependable as long as you maintain it correctly and fly it within it’s parameters.


Feedback from Captain Scott


Like with any other mode of transportation, from driving a car to flying on a commercial jumbo jet, the safety of helicopter flights depends on the safety practices of the owner and operator.


Accident rates in aviation are typically calculated per 100,000 hours of flying. The accident rates in general aviation — the type of flight performed by a private individual or company including private charters, as opposed to a common carrier like an airline or some larger charter companies — show that helicopters are involved in slightly fewer accidents than fixed-wing aircraft.


FAA data across all aviation types, including commercial, shows the fatal accident rate for helicopter is slightly higher than aviation overall.


However we need to consider that this includes helicopter operations that are naturally higher-risk such as fire-fighting, power-line inspection, etc.


The fatal accident rate for helicopters is significantly lower than for cars. Here's a useful article about it: https://thepointsguy.com/news/are-helicopters-safe-how-they-stack-up-against-planes-cars-and-trains/


Are helicopters extremely fragile?

  • Yes!

  • No, solid as any other aircraft

  • Not sure


Feedback from Captain Alvise


Helicopters are not necessarily fragile, however they are built to minimise weight, and are often built with an internal support structure, with the external body not sustaining any specific loads, so they may be perceived as flimsy and fragile.


Additionally any kind of damage, especially to load bearing components has to be checked in order to verify that structural integrity is not compromised, due to the potential consequences of a component breaking in flight.


Feedback from Captain Pascal


No, they're built and certified to high regulatory standards.


Feedback from Captain Spencer


Helicopters are built to withstand a lot of stress and are designed to operate in harsh conditions, including extreme heat, cold, and high altitudes.


They are constructed using strong materials such as titanium and composites, and are equipped with redundant systems to ensure safety.


However, like any machine, they do require regular maintenance and inspections to remain in good working condition.


Feedback from Captain Cristina


They are designed to withstand high torque and RPMs and most of the modern helicopters are a mix of composite and aluminum. They are like any vehicle, if you crash it at high speeds, it will break.


Feedback from Captain Scott


When you consider the aerodynamic forces involved in lifting a 2500kg aircraft (in the case of the H130 we fly) into the air, helicopters are anything but fragile.


Commercial aircraft are put through a rigorous certification program and are engineered to be strong but also as light as possible. In terms of handling turbulence helicopters, by their design, tend to be smoother to fly in that their fixed-wing brethren.



Takes a special pilot to land a helicopter on a yacht

  • For sure!

  • Any pilot licence will do

  • Unsure


Captains Cristina, Alvise, Spencer and Pascal in action. Photo credits to the pilots.


Feedback from Captain Alvise


It does not take a special pilot to land on yacht, as there is no specific rating in the civilian world for these kind of operation, however landing on a moving platform is different than landing on land, so it is highly advisable for a pilot who has never done so before to seek training with an experienced pilot prior to attempting yacht landings for the first time.


Additionally insurance companies usually don't cover pilots without previous yacht experience.


Feedback from Captain Pascal


Absolutely 😉 practice and experience is needed.


Feedback from Captain Spencer


While landing a helicopter on a yacht can be challenging, it does not necessarily require a special pilot.


It does, however, require training and experience in operating a helicopter in confined spaces and under different conditions. Pilots who regularly fly in urban areas or perform search and rescue missions, for example, may have experience with these types of landings.


Feedback from Captain Cristina


I like to think i’m special 😂 but If you have the right training and experience, which takes a bit of time to acquire, landing on a ship becomes like landing on any other helipad.


Feedback from Captain Scott


I might be biased here (as I'm one of those "special" pilots that does this regularly) but truth be told, it's not really any different from landing at any of the other places that helicopter pilots are trained to land. In some cases, it might even be easier/safer as it is a known quantity - a level, smooth surface with limited obstacles.


Compare that to say, landing at a road intersection to pick up a patient, or on the top of a gusty mountain on uneven, sloping terrain.


Helicopters are outrageously expensive

  • Out of this world expensive

  • What is expensive when you are an UHNWI

  • No


Feedback from Captain Alvise


Yes, helicopter are very expensive, that is due to the initial cost of certification for any new type, to the cost of machining components to very high tolerance with expensive materials which are chosen for their robustness and to the price of labor involved at each step of the way, from design to manufacturing and to operation.


Feedback from Captain Pascal


Helicopters are expensive.


Feedback from Captain Spencer


While it's true that helicopters can be expensive, the cost varies widely depending on the type of helicopter, its age, and its features.


There are many helicopters on the market that are affordable and well-suited for a variety of applications, from private use to business and commercial operations.


Additionally, many companies offer helicopter leasing and financing options to make ownership more accessible.


Feedback from Captain Cristina


They are very expensive to maintain and operate but there are aircrafts for many budgets. The Robinsons are the cheapest to buy, maintain and operate.


Feedback from Captain Scott


There's no denying that helicopters are expensive compared to other forms of transport. But, they can also go places and do things that other forms of transport cannot, or they can do it in significantly less time.


Time is precious: whether it be an injured/sick person needing medical evacuation or a CEO that needs to bypass hours of sitting in traffic.


Helicopter engine failure causes you to fall out of the sky

  • For sure

  • No

  • Unsure


Feedback from Captain Alvise


Engine failures will not automatically cause an helicopter to immediately fall out of the sky.


In this instance the pilot can commence a manoeuvre called autorotation, where the helicopter enters a high speed descent so that the rotor can keep turning due to the airflow flowing upwards through the blades (like a windmill), then once the aircraft is close to the ground it can be slowed down and the inertia stored in the spinning blades can be used to cushion the landing.


This manoeuvre can be compared to an airplane gliding, although it involves much higher rates of descent while covering much less distance.


Additionally to remedy to this issue there are multi engine helicopters able to fly on a single engine in case one or more should fail.


Feedback from Captain Pascal


A modern twin engine helicopter keeps flying with one engine. Single engine helicopters can do auto rotations to a safe landing.


An engine failure in a modern, correctly maintained helicopter is a really, really rare thing to happen.


Feedback from Captain Spencer


Helicopters are equipped with multiple systems to ensure safety in the event of an engine failure.


The rotor blades are designed to keep spinning even if the engine stops, allowing the helicopter to make a controlled descent and land safely.


Additionally, pilots are trained to handle emergency situations, including engine failures, and to use their training and experience to safely navigate the helicopter to the ground.


While an engine failure can be serious, it does not necessarily mean that the helicopter will fall out of the sky.


Feedback from Captain Cristina


In case of an engine failure in a helicopter we do a maneuver called an autorotation. It is the most practiced maneuver when training how to fly helicopters. You don’t fall from the sky, you descend quickly but in a controlled manner.


So would you dare to fly a helicopter with one of these three expert pilots and land on a yacht?


Feedback from Captain Scott


Believe it or not, helicopters can do the equivalent of gliding in a aeroplane! All helicopters are designed to be capable of entering autorotation should they suffer a complete engine failure.


In this configuration the air being pushed through the rotors (as the aircraft descends) drives the rotor system, keeping it turning.


A good analogy for this are the seeds of the sycamore tree - if you've seen these fall from a tree, they naturally spin which slows their rate of descent, allowing them to float to the ground (and in their case spread further away from their parent tree).


Helicopter pilots are extensively trained for this scenario (despite its rarity) and whilst the aircraft may need to land fairly quickly, it still only needs a small area to land in.



Thank you to everyone who contributed to this Myth vs Reality topic! I hope it shows you more insight into the enthralling world of helicopters and those who fly them.

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2 Comments


Some inspirational quotes:


If God had meant man to fly helicopters, He'd have given him more money.


Gravity never loses. The best you can hope for is a draw.


Flying isn't dangerous. Crashing is.


Helicopters... a million moving pieces hopefully flying in roughly the same direction at any given time.

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Natalia Langsdale
Natalia Langsdale
Mar 16, 2023
Replying to

Let's see what the pilots and Domizia have to say to that? :)

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