Most successful businesses solve a problem. If you’ve ever tried to get from Miami or Ft. Lauderdale International Airport to Miami Beach, you understand the problem. Luis Folgeira, a former race car driver, helicopter pilot and now boat builder, envisioned a way to solve the traffic cluster for his helicopter charter clients: aMarine Utility Vessel (MUV), which recently debuted in South Florida.
“Miami is an international city and people who travel here from other countries are accustomed to a helicopter infrastructure—but it was non-existent here,” Folgeira says, “Land-based operations are scarce in Miami, but we have plenty of water. I could foresee the need and set out to solve the problem.”
Calling himself an “engineer without a diploma,” Folgeira spent about two years designing a vessel that could accommodate landing a helicopter on water. He created a 55-foot by 20-foot pontoon boat, that with the help of naval architect, Murray & Associates, is a Coast Guard certified, fully navigable vessel that can be a “heliboat” for up to a 7,000-pound helicopter, holding up to six passengers.
Yacht captains aboard vessels with heliports will attest that they can be difficult because the center of gravity is high and any vessel movement complicates the landing. The ILandMiami pontoon is low and was built to withstand turbulence, thanks to its aluminum structure and strategically placed polyethylene pontoons. The boat is powered by a 230-hp turbo diesel engine with a water jet—“like a large jet ski,” says Folgeira. He adds that the boat has a 2.5-foot draft and no propellers, making it environmentally attractive. Navigable by one captain from the starboard aft pilot station, the pontoon can move to areas where the chopper noise will not disrupt residences.
The engine sits between the pilothouse and a port ladder and provides a weight balance that keeps the vessel stable, even in high winds and rough seas. The ILandMiami vessel can be built with up to 30 seats—which also fold down to control “windage.” In addition to a helicopter, the pontoon can also land a sea plane, transfer passengers to a yacht, be used for sightseeing, fishing or transporting larger groups of people for emergency evacuations or special events. The company also has an arrangement with the Miami Ritz-Carlton Residences to dock a vessel at the marina to accommodate guests.
ILandMiami is building its third hull in Kendall, south of Miami, and will have one of its heliboats at the Miami International Boat Show. ILandMiami will shuttle guests via Leonardo helicopters, to its vessel near the Miami Marine Stadium, where an HCB Yacht will whisk passengers to its display on Virginia Key. “This is an ideal opportunity for three exclusive, luxury brands to team up,” said Gabriel Pacheco from HCB Yachts. “People will definitely notice!”