Many a helicopter ply the skies between their owners’ yacht and shore, an opportunity for indulgence as much as for travel.
Violet and gold burnish the western horizon as the tangerine-sized sun sets. The city skyline is filigreed by the spires of skyscrapers and august landmarks. In the middle of these views sits a 85-metre super yacht, the five-year-old acquisition of one of the city’s VIPs. Its indigo livery curves around the elongated bow toward the stern, tapering into a cream paint scheme for the second and third decks and pilot house.
Sitting neatly on the bow’s helideck is an ACH135 helicopter, one of the busiest members of “crew” on the vessel. It has already been out every day since the owner’s been on board, making the usual ferry flight from the private jet and later, sightseeing over the islands down south.
This evening, word has come that the owner needs the aircraft for dinner plans on the mainland. But there’s a twist; he’ll be continuing onward to his chalet afterwards, so in addition to the four guests he’s taking to the restaurant grounds, the ACH135 needs to stow two sets of skis and luggage for the weekend.
In his cabin, the helicopter’s pilot, John Smith, looks at the text detailing the owner’s itinerary, then through the porthole; lenticular clouds shaped by high-altitude winds hint at 40-knot winds lower down, undoubtedly fluttering the helicopter’s rotor blade tips. Smith was up on deck only an hour ago to perform a routine check of the aircraft. In another few minutes, he logs onto weather apps in the yacht’s office and contacts the captain to coordinate the owner’s departure. A flight plan is submitted to the mainland, and another one prepared for the second leg to the mountains. In weather like this when the tenders can’t go ashore, the ACH135 can comfortably operate up to the rotors’ limits—in the area of a 50-knot wind speed.
Comfort and speed were two considerations when the owner decided on the light-twin ACH135. Another was range, especially when pressed to its maximum six-passenger, single-pilot load with luggage. Cruising at 137 knots, it can deliver three hours, 37 minutes’ endurance—and tonight’s mountains are well within that radius.
Stars jewel the sky. The helicopter sits waiting, its twinkling interior lighting a continuation of the starry sky. The doors to the luggage hold sigh shut on skis and snowboards laid horizontally between suitcases and a case of provisions. The yacht’s ambience lighting is brightened a notch to allow the shore party to cross the teak planking to the helicopter’s open sliding doors.
The five passengers settle into leather seats the colour of black pearls, a hue chosen by the owner to complement the yacht’s livery while striking a different look when he’s airborne—the silver tone a reference to this helicopter’s maritime home. Between the seats, the lid of a calfskin storage unit unzips, showing a chilled bottle gifted from a friend’s vineyard. A note of citrus hangs in the air from recently-served hors d’oeuvres, brightening the women’s floral perfume.
As Smith guides the helicopter away from the yacht’s radar antenna, Heilonix avionics, chosen for its single-pilot IFR operations, manages the aircraft’s four-axis autopilot, guidance and navigation, engine and vehicle control, and onboard maintenance functions. This and the emergency floatation system take some of tonight’s workload off of Smith, who’s aware of the owner’s wish for a smooth flight for his guests.
The owner pops the cork of his friend’s wine, noting the slight, familiar scent of engine fuel as they start the half-hour trip to shore—to him, it’s a scent that evokes anticipation, even well-being, at the start of a night’s journey.