Superyacht’s Marina heliport – the golden rules for a Marina that wants to take… flight!



By Stefano Notarantonio




Superyacht’s owners and charter clients have increasingly less time to devote to travelling and are increasingly unwilling to wait: the maximum “acceptable” travel time to reach the Marina is 45 minutes.

The risk of Coronavirus infection has increased the demand for “protected” travel, making helicopter transfers one of the most popular services.

A modern Marina, that is also dedicated to an SY, ought to already be equipped with a heliport or a suitable internal helipad when designing the hardware: nowadays and more often than ever, SY owners choose a Marina as their home port based on the availability of a heliport/helipad.

Charter companies are no exception: in the conception of cruise itineraries, they first of all check the availability of the heliport along the chosen route, in order to allow customers to reach the boat quickly, comfortably, safely and in privacy.

The presence of a heliport/helipad within an SY’s yachting marina represents a quid pluris that can greatly and positively increase the revenues of the Marina.

Over the years, having spoken with many Marina managers, I have found that there is a lot of misinformation on the subject and the inability to understand how to go about building a heliport/helipad leads the entrepreneur to give up a considerable slice of the market.

So, in order to better deal with the topic, I asked Aircraft Commander and Aircraft Consultant Stefano Sbardella [1] to help us draft the ideal vade mecum for SY’s yatching marina, which wants to conceive, design, implement and manage a heliport service in Italy, so as to distinguish itself in the market.

Commander Sbardella, an Italian yachting Marina wants to build a heliport, which rules must it follow?

The relevant regulations are those issued by ENAC (National Civil Aviation Authority) with the “Regulations for the construction and operation of heliports”, in accordance with the provisions of Article 690 of the Navigation Code and in application of Annex 14 of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

For the first time, the regulation introduces the notion of a heliport to be used as an airport for the exclusive use of helicopters used in the commercial transport of passengers and health care in an urban area. This innovation makes it possible to expand the pre-existing regulatory scheme that in the field of aeronautical infrastructure provided only heliports, integrating it with the establishment of heliports.

It should be noted that the requirements of the aforementioned regulation are applicable to newly-built heliports where commercial transport by helicopter is carried out and at least one of the following conditions is met:

  1. a) they are located on off-shore platforms or on-board commercial vessels for the transport of passengers;
  2. b) they are HEMS operating bases or infrastructure serving hospital facilities with a daily average of flights equal to or greater than 2 in the semester in question;
  3. c) instrumental operations are carried out there;
  4. d) commercial transport operations with a daily average of flights equal to or greater than 6 in the given semester are carried out continuously.

The reference semester is that with the highest traffic intensity.


What are the technical characteristics of the heliport and those of the helipad?

While the installation of a heliport requires the existence of public interest (commercial transport of passengers or health care in an urban area) upon which the competent local authorities agree on the restrictions imposed on private property necessary to ensure the safety of operations over time, for helipads, the discriminating factor is the frequency of use that determines and regulates the authorizations and management.


Commander, would you mind showing us the characteristics and differences between the casual and non-casual helipads?

Helipads are divided into casual and non-casual.

The term “casual helipad” means any area suitable for casual take-off and landing operations only used in daytime VFR (weather conditions for visual flight) conditions for a maximum number of 100 flights per year, with the exception of emergency and aerial work activities (commercial use of aircraft for activities other than the air transport of passengers, cargo and mail) for which there is no movement limit. Emergency activities are: emergency medical transport; rescue, evacuation, fire-fighting and rescue operations.

The use of casual helipads is allowed after obtaining the consent of the owner of the area and is limited to flights whose departure and destination are in the national territory without intermediate stops in another State. Their usage is under the sole responsibility of the pilot who is required to verify that eligibility requirements are met or that of the aerial work operator using them, who must verify their suitability.

Before flying on a casual helipad, the pilot is required to send communications to the Airport Management and Public Safety Authority, which are territorially competent, as well as to the Harbor Master’s Office or other competent authority in case of sea operations.

A non-casual helipad must instead be managed by an individual or legal entity that is responsible for verifying that the infrastructure complies with the requirements of the D.M Transport decree 1/2/2006 and is safely operated with particular reference to the presence of any obstacles to air navigation and the efficiency of the technical and operational equipment installed, also describing the operator’s obligations necessary for the acquisition, maintenance and renewal of the authorization granted by the aviation authority.

Its usage is allowed after obtaining the operator’s consent and is limited to intra-Community flights.


Which body is authorized to issue the certification necessary for the construction of a heliport and that for a helipad?

For a heliport, the procedure is stipulated by the ENAC Regulation on heliports and the certificate is issued by ENAC to the heliport owner upon a positive conclusion of its investigations: i.e., when the infrastructure complies with the requirements with particular reference to the presence of any obstacles, physical characteristics, limitations, visual and navigation aids, the efficiency of the technical and operational equipment installed and meets all the requirements for certification and management, maintenance and services, accident and risk prevention and aeronautical information.

Concerning helipads, the regulation is less complex and ENAC refers to the APT Circular 36 that governs the legislation for managed and authorized non-casual helipads, and the requirements for registration, publication, maintenance of requirements and surveillance, and verification activities of the authority.

For casual helipads on private territory, it remains the operator’s duty to request authorization from the Public Safety Authority and the competent Airport Management for the territory and to report to ENAC for surveillance activities and verification of the existence of the conditions of frequency of movements.


In the next article we will talk together with Commander Sbardella, about the characteristics that must have a Marine  that wants to host inside a helipad or heliport.

See you next!




[1] Commander’s Curriculum

Born in Rome, he began flying in 1987, graduating from the F. De Pinedo State Aeronautical Technical Institute in Rome. He attended the Naval Academy in Livorno completing the regular training course of the Naval Academy for officers of the RC IOC Special Role in effective permanent service.

After qualifying as a General Staff Officer in 1991, he was selected for flight training by the U.S. Navy, receiving his military pilot’s license from the U.S. Navy on an airplane in 1993 and obtaining a military helicopter pilot’s license in 1994.

He has served in the aircraft division of the Navy as a pilot in support of the San Marco regiment and the GOI, in many real-life foreign missions, as section and task group commander, flight safety chief, pilot instructor and controller, and as a pilot for post-maintenance inspection and testing flights.

As a civilian he has worked in different fields all over the world, gaining experience with major national and international flag companies, minor airlines, military organizations and major aircraft manufacturers, flying high performance aircraft, turboprop, Wide Body fly by wire jet airliners both twin and four-engine as well as heavy helicopters, as commander and instructor.

With an honors degree in Nautical Sciences and Navigation Technologies, a qualification as a flight safety officer and an aviation accident investigator, long-term experience as an instructor as well as extensive commercial and operational experience, he has amassed over 16,000 hours of flight time, with decades of long-range experience worldwide.

He currently lives in Reykjavik and works with a major ACMI operator and as an aviation consultant and visiting Lecturer.