The establishment of Acher Aviation as a specialist offshore operator was based on helicopter ship service operations around the Cape of Good Hope dating back to 1980. This was carried out in the giant Sikorsky S61 N Helicopter. Hauling up to 20 tonnes of stores in numerous under sling loads out to bulk carriers and undertaking complete crew changes at night in massive swells (‘Cape Rollers’) was a big learning curve. Just being able to get back to the harbour helipad on some windy, misty and rainy nights was a challenge on its own. Anyone who knows the geography of the Cape understands that it is hostile! This, remember, was before the days of GPS! This background however, opened the door to the idea of providing total support to the harbour and international shipping by helicopter.
It is simply not possible to elaborate on the considerable development of administration, structures, safety, quality assurance, maintenance, discipline and training associated with the highly advanced and specialised Acher operations conducted today in such a short note. And so in brief:
Acher Aviation is a pioneer in the specific application of helicopters in the harbour environment. Primarily driven by the safe, cost effective and quick carriage of marine pilots 24 hours per day to and from vessels at sea, services are also provided in support of harbour operations providing an almost instant response to most requirements.
Acher Aviation has conducted in excess of one hundred thousand hoist operations onto and off vessels of almost any configuration. Countless landings on vessels that have landing areas have also been safely performed.
Current international operational audit approvals are in place from Shell (London) and Chevron (Houston) to provide unrestricted services both day and night to their vessels. (These audits are pretty strict!!) This is over and above the legal requirements of local Civil Aviation Authority audit requirements.
The new ICS (International Chamber of Shipping) document titled ‘Guide To Helicopter/Ship Operations’ Fourth Edition has had substantial input from Acher Aviation with the new Marine Pilot section having been predominantly provided by Acher Aviation. In a personal letter dated 19 Jan 2009 from the International Chamber of Shipping in London the following was written:
“ICS takes great pride in producing new publications and is keen to ensure they reflect the most up to date best operating practice. This is not possible without the considerable amount of time, effort and dedication of a relatively small number of people, on whose expertise we depend. As a small token of our appreciation for all your help, we enclose a personalised copy of the new edition of the ICS Guide to Helicopter/Ship Operations; with many thanks for your most valuable contribution to its development”
Carried out over a period in excess of 16 months Acher Aviation are very proud of the role played in the development of this document and the resultant increase in safety associated with the substantial accumulated knowledge passed on to the ICS. This document is carried by almost every vessel on the high seas.
New ISPS (International Ship and Port Security) requirements are dealt with in a fully functional procedural manual. The helicopter provides a simple means of increasing any harbours security levels at a speed and cost simply not possible by any other methods.
Careful selection of helicopters ensures a safe operating platform offering redundancy in almost every flight regime. Careful selection of staff and associated training programs ensure a professional approach to all operations. Highly developed structures in respect of manuals of procedure, standard operating procedures and safety, to mention a few, ensure that hardware and expertise are tied together in such a way as to reduce this service to a routine reliable safe operation.
Acher Aviation offers any harbour with difficult boarding or disembarking conditions, traffic movements in excess of 300 vessels per month, bunching of vessel traffic causing pilot delays, insufficient pilot numbers, pilot injuries, insufficient pilot boats, excessive costs and almost any other financial or operational reason, a viable alternative to the traditional pilot boat. Costs associated with pilot boats continue to escalate while helicopter costs, relatively speaking, are coming down with modern technology.
It is inevitable that one day, all modern and progressive harbours will incorporate helicopter support. This could in fact become compulsory for safety reasons alone! Pilot boat boarding and disembarking is out of date and can be dangerous! This can and should be avoided when the helicopter offers complete safety and a highly cost effective alternative both day and night. Helicopter operations continue to operate safely long after pilot boat operations are forced to be curtailed. Helicopter limitations are imposed only by the safe navigation of the vessel concerned by the marine pilot. Depending on the vessel and local conditions this would typically start occurring when wind speeds start to exceed 40 knots or swells start to exceed 4 to 6 metres. The helicopter is still very comfortable in such conditions. These kinds of limits may sound excessive to an experienced mariner? The helicopter is capable of 140 knots at a comfortable cruise. A 40 knot wind is well within the helicopters flight envelope. Not being connected to the sea renders the helicopter immune from the swell. An experienced operator such as Acher Aviation conducts operations under such conditions with ease and in absolute safety.
Please look at the rest of this small web page. Some photos, a short movie and various documents of interest are available. Acher would always be happy to show you around and allow you to see a fully developed operation in action should you be investigating the introduction of helicopters in your port.
You are invited to contact Acher for any information you may require in connection with the evaluation of a helicopter pilot service for your port/harbour.
Acher Aviation (Pty) Ltd
- Acher Aviation works with the constant support of our helicopter manufacturer, harbour clients, marine pilots, shipping agents, shipping companies, our insurance brokers/underwriters, auditors and a host of other people and organisations that make this safe service possible. Our thanks go to them all.
- In respect of the ICS document referred to above, my special thanks go to Captain ‘Jim Lyons’. This gentleman was a valuable mentor to me in the 1970’s on the North Sea as a Co Pilot. Now retired from active flying, he remains highly active in the formulation and implementation of new and improved international aviation legislation. It was he who was ultimately responsible for the co-ordination, compilation and editing of all the information provided to him.