A helipad is the ultimate luxury convenience for anyone in a hurry to start their dream yacht charter vacation, yet although it seems these days every self-respecting superyacht boasts a helipad - or two - few are actually commercially certified for helicopter landings. So, the question remains: is a non-certified helipad just a waste of space on a yacht charter?
To clear things up, we have compiled our guide on everything you need to know about superyacht helipads, as well as some of the best charter yachts already equipped with fully-certified helicopter platforms for those wishing to kick off their luxury yacht charter in style.
In this article:
- A commercially-certified helipad is a must
- Can you use a non-certified helipad on a yacht charter?
- Private helipads
- ‘Touch and go’ helipad
- Charter guest benefits
- 6 stand-out superyachts with a fully-certified helipad
- 1. La Datcha
- 2. Cloudbreak
- 3. Madsummer
- 4. Naia
- 5. Flying Fox
- 6. Kismet
- Interested in booking a luxury yacht charter?
For this classification, a superyacht helipad must be constructed and operated in line with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s (MCA) Large Commercial Yacht Code (LY3) Annex 6, which is basically the technical standards for helicopter landing areas, or helipads.
This code sets out the basic rules governing the design, construction and operation of a helipad, which includes important factors such as a yacht’s load bearing capacity, obstacle clearance, consideration of airflow, safe access points, lighting, permanent deck markings and relevant crew training on helicopter operations.
The responsibility for the survey and certification process for a helipad intended for commercial use is shared between the yacht’s registered flag state, the classification society and an aviation inspection body, such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
All in all, it doesn’t leave much wiggle room for winging it.
In a nutshell, no.
Helicopters are not permitted to touch down on a non-certified helipad onboard a yacht that is being used commercially, i.e. for charter, unless for a medical emergency such as the evacuation of sick or injured passengers.
A helipad or helideck is considered a commercial operation if used to either;
- Receive commercial charter helicopters, or
- Transport charter guests
Therefore, even a yacht being used privately by its owner cannot receive a commercial charter helicopter if the helideck is not certified.
The ICAO have also weighed in on this point, stipulating that “all commercial air transport helicopters should land on certified helipads which must be built according to certain standards”.
Private helipads onboard a yacht adhere to less stringent rules and therefore do not have to meet the commercial standards for certification.
We find many owners are keen to incorporate a helideck, so long as it doesn't compromise the overall aesthetic of the yacht
That's not to say that non-certified helipads aren’t safe, as for the most part they will have been designed with the regulations in mind. However, more often a yacht’s visual appeal is advocated over the practicalities of helipad design. Chris Wood, a helidecks operations manager with Safeguard Helidecks Certification agrees: “We find many owner's are keen to incorporate a helideck, so long as it doesn't compromise the overall aethestic of the yacht."
This snazzy term has become synonymous with luxury superyachts, although it technically has no meaning. For clarity's sake, unless specified ‘touch and go’ helipads are not certified and therefore cannot be used for commercial operations i.e. yacht charters, with the exception of medical emergencies.
This can cause some confusion, especially as these types of helipads are often highlighted as a stand-out feature when marketing a yacht for charter.
A certified helipad onboard a yacht is a major bonus for yacht charterers wishing to expedite their travel time and arrive in style. Other advantages include;
- Quick and easy access to and from the yacht
- Avoids wasting time in heavy traffic
- Avoids lengthy tender rides to yachts out on anchor
- Provides an opportunity for guests to explore their surroundings further
- Ideal jumping off point for extreme sports such as heli skiing
- Useful for corporate charter events
- Safe and comfortable transportation option
We are seeing huge demand from yacht owners wanting to get their private helipads commercially certified for yacht charters
As for non-commercial helipads, it can also be used for medical emergencies.
In conclusion, a fully operational helideck is an increasingly desirable feature onboard a charter yacht, which has led to a growing demand for helipad certification. Chris Woods at Safeguard Helidecks Certification confirms this is one of their biggest growth areas: "We are seeing huge demand from yacht owners wanting to get their private helipads commercially certified for yacht charters".
So, although there are currently only a handful of charter yachts offering certified helipads right now, the future looks bright.
We have hand-picked a selection of top-rated superyachts equipped with a commerical landing platform for the ultimate luxury yacht charter.
Launched in 2020 to much acclaim, this stellar 77-metre explorer yacht is perfectly tailor-made for unique yacht vacations in far-flung destinations across the globe.
Located on her main deck aft, La Datcha’s helipad provides the perfect launching base for her two commercially-registered B3 Squirrel helicopters, designed by her adrenaline junkie owner with heli-skiing adventures and heli-ops in mind.
As well as an autonomous capability of up to 40 days at sea, she also boasts a raft of technology-rich gadgets, extensive wellness area, luxurious interiors and a toy chest overflowing with water-based and onshore exploration gear, including 2 snow scooters and a 3-person submarine.
Delivered out from the eminent German shipyard Abeking and Rasmussen in 2016, this voluminous 75-metre explorer yacht has a large dedicated aft commercial helideck for her custom Bell 429 Global Ranger, whilst still leaving ample deck areas for charter guests to exclusively enjoy.
CLOUDBREAK offers an array of superlative amenities from her glass-enclosed winter garden to her fantastic alfresco cinema which converts into a nightclub, complete with DJ booth, lighting and state-of-the-art sound system! She also boasts a vast wellness centre with sauna, plunge pool, gym and massage area, as well as a qualified onboard beautician and personal trainer for the ultimate onboard luxury experience.
Launched in 2019, this award-winning 95-metre luxury yacht boasts all the hallmarks of meticulous craftsmanship we’ve come to expect from a Lurssen yacht.
MADSUMMER has a large helipad platform on her foredeck, fully-certified for helicopter operations and bunkering. She also houses a fully-equipped hangar in her bow for helicopter storage. On top of this, guests keen to explore their destination can do so on the yacht's very own Husky seaplane and 11-meter limo tender.
With exquisite Laura Sessa interiors showcasing a colour palette of primary hues, vast alfresco social areas, dedicated cinema suite and extensive wellness facilities, this spectacular charter yacht is an eternal crowd pleaser.
Delivered by Spanish yard Freire to her owner in 2011, This custom expedition yacht has made clever use of her wide foredeck helipad, which converts to a vast sundeck area with an array of sumptuous loungers when not being used as a landing platform for helicopters.
NAIA is uniquely both a luxury yacht and a state-of-the-art research vessel, boasting a submarine hangar for deep exploration, high-tech research facilities and an onboard laboratory.
For those looking for a little indulgence, she also offers a fully-equipped glass-panelled gym and swimming pool, huge penthouse-style Owner’s deck offering sensational views, main salon that converts to a cinema suite and an impressive array of toys, including a 5-person submarine capable of depths of up to 525 feet.
This impressive Lurssen yacht boasts not just one but two certified helipads, located on her top deck and bow, and both intentionally left clear so that charter guests can come and go as they please.
At 136 meters (446 ft) FLYING FOX is also the largest superyacht available for charter, and the most expensive!
Her stand-out features are endless; a stunning mezzanine-style salon, 12-meter swimming pool, lavish cinema suite, 400 m2 multi-level wellness spa – featuring a cryo-sauna, extensive Owner’s deck and observation lounge, to name a few of her onboard highlights.
Another award-winning turn from the German shipyard Lurssen, KISMET has two certified helipads; one on her bridge deck, which can be converted into a sumptuous alfresco lounging area, and another located on her foredeck, which is also marked out for a half-court basketball game!
This sleek 95m/312ft luxury yacht is assuredly masculine, both outside and in. From the sculpted jaguar on her bow to her luxuriant Art Deco-inspired black and gold interiors – based on a brief of ‘champagne and caviar’, she exudes glamour and style everywhere you turn.
Stand-out features include a stunning mosaic-tiled swimming pool with an adjacent elevated Jacuzzi offering sweeping vistas, aft deck fire pit with an integrated waterfall feature, double-height main salon and sports bar with full-height video walls so there’s no need to miss the game, plus innovative green features for environmentally-conscious charterers.
Choosing a yacht with a fully-certified helipad gives you a world of itinerary options that would otherwise not be achievable, allowing you and your broker to prepare some amazing and memorable experiences for the perfect yacht charter vacation.
With the list of charter yachts featuring commercial helipads growing each year, with many being retrospectively certified, be sure to check back. In the meantime, browse the current selection of yachts equipped with a commercial helideck.
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