Touch and Go – Yacht helicopter landing areas demystified

The design and construction of helicopter landing areas and hangar arrangements onboard large yachts is widely recognised by the marine industry as being a heavily regulated and technically challenging subject matter, which requires careful consideration in order to fully address the requirements of the owner and the regulatory authorities.

Helicopter

The responsibility for the survey and certification process of commercially operated helicopter landing and storage arrangements is shared between the Flag Administration, its Recognised Organisation (the classification society) and an aviation inspection body with a view to ensuring that an appropriate level of specialist expertise is provided throughout the process and involves the review of numerous plans and documentation in addition to site survey work related to the following items:

  • Helicopter landing area, lighting and tie down arrangements
  • Helideck structural arrangement and drainage/scuppers
  • Hangar arrangements
  • Re-fuelling/de-fuelling/storage and transfer arrangements
  • Passive and active fire protection
  • Means of escape
  • Crew qualifications and training
  • Operational procedures
Formal clarification of the scope of work to be conducted by each party is normally provided in the form of a delegation matrix that is issued at the start of each new build project by the applicable Flag Administration.

It has however come to LR's attention that in many cases, the owner chooses not to opt for the helipad to be included in the scope of any commercial certification and to retain any such arrangements for private use only. This is often referred to in the industry as a ‘Touch and go’ helicopter landing area. However, it must be understood that such a term is non-existent. In such cases, the certificate issued by the Flag Administration is worded accordingly to clearly identify the fact that its use is precluded from commercial operation. A memo Item is also added to the yacht’s classification records indicating that the arrangements do not comply with commercial standards.

From a technical perspective, the helideck is subsequently treated as nothing more than an open deck space, which is of sufficient strength to effectively carry the loads associated with take-off, landing and the carriage of a helicopter and in some cases, is not designed and constructed to satisfy the applicable requirements of SOLAS or any of the other technical requirements that would normally apply. In such cases, LR strongly recommends compliance with the fire safety requirements specified in SOLAS Chapter II-2 Regulation 18 and that advice is sought from the authorised Helicopter Certification Authority.

Finally, it is important for designers and builders to note that in cases whereby non-compliant helicopter arrangements are proposed, this matter should be discussed in detail with a prospective owner who in turn should seek advice from any other interested parties (management companies, legal entities, insurers and helicopter charter companies etc.) in order to ensure that the implications of a non-certified helideck are fully understood at an early stage.  

For further information about this topic please contact:
Julian Smith Lead Specialist – Fire & Safety julian.smith@lr.org