Tag Archives: SAR

First flight for Norwegian AW101

The first of 16 AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters for the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security (MoJ) successfully performed its maiden flight at the AgustaWestland Helicopter Division’s Yeovil factory in the UK on 21 March 2016.  This was announced by Finmeccanica on 23 March 2016.

The successful on-schedule maiden flight marks a major milestone and the start of the flight test programme that will lead to initial aircraft deliveries to the MoJ, for operation by the Royal Norwegian Air Force, in 2017. Aircraft deliveries will continue through to 2020.

“I am very pleased that Finmeccanica has reached this important milestone in the SAR helicopter project and thereby making good progress for the replacement of the aging Sea King helicopter with the new state-of-the-art AW101 by 2020,” says the Minister of Justice and Public Security, Mr. Anders Anundsen.

The first Norwegian AW101 during its maiden flight on 21 March from Yeovil airfield (Image © Finmeccanica)
The first Norwegian AW101 during its maiden flight on 21 March from Yeovil airfield (Image © Finmeccanica)

As we reported earlier, the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security signed a contract for 16 AW101 helicopters plus support and training, back in december 2013, to meet the Norwegian All Weather SAR Helicopter (NAWSARH) requirement based on a new generation aircraft. Each aircraft is provided with an advanced SAR equipment package including a multi-panel AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) surveillance radar system, that provides 360° coverage. The large cabin doors and rear ramp provide easy access for personnel, survivors and equipment into the 27 m3 cabin which has stand-up head room throughout.

Finmeccanica’s Helicopter Division will provide initial support and training services, including spares at each of the aircraft operating bases and aircrew training. It will then provide performance based logistic support to deliver approximately 90,000 flying hours across the fleet of 16 helicopters over the initial 15 year period of operation. In support of pilot training, a full flight simulator will be available in Norway in advance of the delivery of the first aircraft.

The AW101 is in service with several air forces. For example, the Danish Air Force already send their AW101 (EH101) for operations in Afghanistan. In 2015, Japan got its first anti-mine AW101 (MCH-101) delivered, produced by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, while the Italian Air Force recently introduced its first CSAR AW101 (HH-101A) into service.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Dennis Spronk
Featured image: The first Norwegian AW101 during its maiden flight on 21 March from Yeovil airfield (Image © Finmeccanica)

Royal Air Force Sea Kings end SAR duties

The Royal Air Force (RAF) ceased Search and Rescue (SAR) operations with its well known yellow Sea King helicopters this weekend, ending an impressive 74 years of continuous life-saving operations by RAF crews. The last operational mission was flown on 4 October by a crew at Chivenor airfield, transporting a 38 year old male to hospital. Shortly afterwards, the RAF crew and helicoopter were relieved of their duty. Bristow Helicopters has taken over the SAR responsibility.

Official statistic show that since 1983 and using mainly Sea King choppers, RAF crews of six SAR-units throughout the UK completed 34,025 callouts and rescued 26,853 persons in distress. Each unit maintained a 15-minutes readiness state during daylight hours and a 45-minutes readiness state during night time.

The Bristow Group in 2013 won a 10-year and 1.6 billion GBP contract to provide SAR coverage, starting this year. It will no longer be Yellow Sea Kings, but red and white Sikorsky S-92s and AgustaWestlands 189s saving lives in the UK.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: Yellow and always there when needed: a SAR Sea King. (Image © UK Ministry of Defence)

Canadian Cyclones accepted

Canada accepted the first six Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopters on Friday 18 June. The helicopters arrived at Shearwater airbase just outside Halifax. In the end, 28 Cyclones replace the CH-124 Sea King helicopters that fulfilled Canadian SAR duties for five decades.

Replacement of the trusty Sea King has been a headache for years in Canada. The AgustaWestland EH101 was meant to replace the old helo, but that contract was cancelled after a change of government. It resulted in a new contract for Sikorsky for 28 CH-148 Cyclones.

Problems
The new chopper is however not without problems. The Cyclone proved underpowered at first and unable of running its gearbox for 30 minutes without oil, a requirement set by Canada. The order was almost cancelled, but subsequent trials have set Canada at ease. Sikorsky and the Canadian Armed Forces conducted sea trials with the CH-148 Cyclone on HMCS Halifax between December 2014 and May 2015. The Cyclone conducted 67 sorties, including 322 landings and takeoffs from the frigate.

Before the end of the year, two more Cyclones will be delivered and the first two Sea Kings retired. The year 2018 should see the final end for the Sea King.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): A CH-148 Cyclone (Image © RCAF/Sikorsky)

 

Lithuanian Air Force’s first Dauphin

The Lithuanian Air Force received its first of three Airbus Helicopters (Aérospatiale / Eurocopter) AS365N3+ Dauphins on 2 June 2015. Before the end of the year the new search and rescue / environmental patrol asset is expected to number all three machines.

Russian-made Mil Mi-8 Hip choppers will be replaced with the new Western European helicopter already operational with many of the world’s armed force and SAR services. The main task of the Dauphins is civil and military SAR, including missions supporting NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission. The latter meaning the rescue of fighter jocks of NATO’s combat aircraft in case they eject from their planes in case of an emergency.

The Lithuanian Ministry of Environment, which co-purchased the machines with the Ministry of Defence, gets 75 flight hours on the Dauphins a year, for environmental observation and control. The AS365s are also to deploy as fire-fighters and to transport organs for transplantation.

The Lithuanian Armed Forces signed the procurement contract with Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters) on the three Eurocopter AS365N3+ Dauphins in October 2013, for about 52 million euro including the training of pilots.

The Dauphins are equipped with a weather/SAR radar, infrared sensors, searchlight, an autopilot and other equipment to make recovery of people possible about 125 miles (200 km) from the take-off point possible. The Lithuanian Armed Forces have SAR detachments at Kaunas-Aleksotas in the south of the country and at Nemirseta on the Baltic Sea coast in the west.

Source: Ministry of National Defence Republic of Lithuania

The first of three AS365N3+ Dauphins arrive in Lithuania on 2 June 2015 (Image © Lithuanian Ministry of Defence)
The first of three AS365N3+ Dauphins arrive in Lithuania on 2 June 2015 (Image © Lithuanian Ministry of Defence)

The End of Tweeting

They are called ‘Tweety’, and they were called upon for search and rescue missions for over twenty years. But starting January, it is mission accomplished for the Royal Netherlands Air Force’s (RNLAF) three Agusta-Bell AB412 helicopters at Leeuwarden airbase. Their yellow appearance was a familiar and assuring sight to many. A civil contractor takes over the search and rescue task and the three Tweeties are sold to Peru.

In total, Air Force search and rescue helicopters have been operating from Leeuwarden for 55 years, rescueing downed fighter pilots from the cold North Sea, transporting patients from the Dutch barrier islands to hospitals on the main land.

A total of 5,355 emergency or life saving flights were performed by 303 Squadron, the unit that operated the Tweeties every day and every night of every week, month and year. The Tweeties flew about 200 mission yearly. Every now and then, even a sick seal found in the Wadden Sea was picked up for treatment in an animal shelter.

 All those rotor blades ... like a kitchen with too many knives. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
All those rotor blades … like a kitchen with too many knives. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The first Italian built AB412 arrived in Leeuwarden in 1994. Since then, all three helicopters spent the majority of their careers flying over the sea.  (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)
The first Italian built AB412 arrived in Leeuwarden in 1994. Since then, all three helicopters spent the majority of their careers flying over the sea. (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)

Key
The yellow Agusta-Bell AB412s entered service with the RNLAF in 1994, its predecessor being the Aérospatiale Alouette III. But according to the Dutch Ministry of Defense, search and rescue is no longer a key operation for the RNLAF.  Starting January, Air Force AS532 Cougar helicopters will temporarily fly SAR duties from Leeuwarden. A civil party is expected to take over the operations  entirely by mid-2015. “A pity”, says an Air Force AB412 pilot, “it was always a great and rewarding job.”

Salty business
Currently a KLM Boeing 777 pilot, Willem Boiten flew both the Alouette III and the Tweety. Transition from a ‘normal’ helicopter pilot to a SAR pilot required a lot of hovering and hoist practicing.

“Hovering is always difficult when everything around you is moving, which is the case at sea. My final exam included hovering over a buoy. After I succeeded, my colleagues gave me a water proof marker and hoisted me down to the buoy ‘to write my name on it’ – or so they said. You can guess what happened next: they dragged me along the water, for all passengers on a passing ferry to see. The beer I had afterwards still tasted salty, and my colleagues dared asking whether I still had the marker!”

Early in their career, the AB412s  and their crew earned recognition for their vigilance during floods that threatened the southern part of the Netherlands in February 1995.  Boiten: “We just flew around as troubleshooters, looking to help out anywhere”

Seen here in 1992 is this SAR Alouette III. Back then, it was<em> THEIR </em> retirement that was imminent. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Seen here in 1992 is this SAR Alouette III. Back then, it was THEIR retirement that was imminent. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
 Seen here in 1992 is this SAR Alouette III. Back then, it was<em> THEIR </em> retirement that was imminent. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Seen here in 1992 is this SAR Alouette III. Back then, it was THEIR retirement that was imminent. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

NH90
Over the last few years, a lot has changed in the Dutch SAR capacity. Dutch Navy Lynx helos operated alongside the Tweeties for many years, but the Lynx was retired and replaced by NHIndustries NH90 Nato Frigate Helicopters (NFH). The new Navy helos were expected to be fully operational from Naval Airfield De Kooy in 2015, but things may have changed since this year’s break in NH90 deliveries over dozens of technical issues .

The AB412 – and the Alouette III before it – were faithful till the end – although not all is over for the yellow Tweeties. According to various sources the RNLAF AB412s are sold to Peru, like Fokker fixed-wing aircraft before them. The official sale announcement is yet to be made. Meanwhile, memories of RNLAF search and rescue missions remain. One of the surviving SAR Alouettes serves as a reminder in the recently opened National Military Museum in Soesterberg.

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

The RNLAF AB412 seen over a typically Dutch landscape. (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)
The RNLAF AB412 seen over a typically Dutch landscape. (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)
AS532 Cougar helicopters will temporarily provide SAR cover. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
AS532 Cougar helicopters will temporarily provide SAR cover. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Rare shot of all three Tweeties in formation over the city of Harlingen, near Leeuwarden. (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)
Rare shot of all three Tweeties in formation over the city of Harlingen, near Leeuwarden. (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)