Safe use of helicopters on board superyachts
Chris Wood, Operations Manager at Safeguard Helideck Certification, answers some commonly posed questions about Maritime Aviation …
What is classed as Commercial Helicopter Operations and why do we need a Helicopter Landing Area Certificate?
Our goal at Safeguard Helideck Certification is to ensure safe aviation at sea. Regardless of whether it is a chartered or private flight, we want to make sure aviation is being conducted in the safest possible manner. Flying comes with inherent risk and flying at sea increases that risk. If those risks are managed correctly, aviation at sea can be a safe and pleasant experience.
The key point in answering this question is to note that yachts with a fully Certified helicopter landing area are cleared for use with both chartered and private helicopters that are carrying fee paying passengers, i.e. a commercial flight. International aviation regulations mandate that all commercial helicopters must operate to a Certified helideck and increasingly superyachts are being built to this standard, thus enabling maximum flexibility in their helicopter operations.
We all know that yacht charter is big business, and the requirements of guests can vary from wanting to fly to the nearest golf course, to exploring an ice cap in the artic. But with a Non-Certified helideck, helicopter operations are limited to private use only and private helidecks almost always compromise on obstacle clearance in favour of aesthetics. There have been occasions where chartered helicopters have refused to land on a private (uncertified) helideck because the pilot/s were not satisfied with the safety clearances in and around the helideck.
Aviation on a superyacht should not be viewed as a nice ‘add on’ to the vessel’s capabilities. Safe aviation should be at the forefront of everybody’s minds when conducting helicopter operations whether on a private or commercial helideck. Having a fully Certified helideck ensures that all the regulations have been met and adhered to and, although we are unable to influence the procedure of the helicopter, we can ensure that the Helideck is in the best possible condition to receive an aircraft safely.
Another commonly asked question is “Who are Safeguard Helideck Certification and what do you do?
Safeguard Helideck Certification is an Aviation Inspection Body (AIB) and we are authorised to issue Helicopter Landing Area Certificates (HLAC), Helicopter Landing Area Inspection Reports (HLAIR) and Helicopter Landing Area Technical Certificates (HLATC) on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), Malta and the Cayman Islands Registry.
Our team travels worldwide, and often at short notice to meet the client’s needs, to conduct HLAIR and HLAC on new and existing superyachts. We also offer consultancy for any owners and/or operators who are designing a new Helideck area and want to ensure the proposed design will meet the regulations. The team also consults on improvements or alterations to an existing Helideck area, ensuring these changes will be compliant with the regulations and obtain a HLAC, ensuring the superyacht (and helideck) is safe for commercial helicopter operations.
We have combined, over 60 years of experience operating helicopters on vessels at sea. Our team comprises of Ex-Military Aircrew, Flight Deck Officers, Survival Specialists, Safety Management Specialists, Helicopter Engineers and Naval Architects. We live and breathe maritime aviation and strive to ensure that superyachts can enjoy their helicopter operations in the safest way possible.
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