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Helicopter Pilots & Superyachts

.One of the questions we regularly get asked is whether there are specific piloting requirements for landing a helicopter on a yacht and are there particular aspects a pilot must be aware of.

The helicopter landing area on a superyacht is known as a ‘shipboard heliport’ which has unique features that can create challenges even for the most experienced pilots. First and foremost, the ‘shipboard heliport’ is hosted on a seagoing vessel which is subjected to variable winds and sea state which causes the yacht to pitch and roll and heave and yaw, so effectively it’s a moving target, so not like land-based heliports or those on offshore fixed installations, such as oil and gas rigs. In addition, the shipboard heliport will generally be a confined area, close to the vessel superstructure which can, in itself, create additional wind turbulence for the pilot to deal with.

Pilots operating to and from shipboard heliports must also ensure that the vessel has undertaken their own ‘preparations for flying’. One particular aspect of this preparation is to ensure ‘FOD plods’ have been carried out. A FOD plod means to walk round and carry out a visual inspection, removing any ‘foreign object debris’ on or around the shipboard heliport that shouldn’t be there, and which has the potential to cause damage to the helicopter.

FOD includes all loose articles, such as furniture, cushions, towels, bottles and glasses, books and papers, covers and awnings, and any other type of paraphernalia which is not bolted down, and which must be removed or mechanically secured so that the down wash from the main rotors does not draw these items up into the main rotors causing a catastrophic accident.

It's worth noting, a FOD plod is not limited to the shipboard heliport on a yacht. Other decks and open areas on the yacht must be prepared and checked as the down wash from a helicopter does not stop at the shipboard heliport where it lands and takes off, but travels down stairwells and along corridors, so it is very important to ensure other deck areas are checked to prevent damage to the helicopter as well as precious and often expensive items from being blown overboard and ending up in the water.

Should you have questions about operating helicopters on yachts, please feel free to get in touch at


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