In a ceremony at the Airbus Helicopters plant in Albacete, the Spanish Air Force on Monday 3 October took delivery of its first H215 helicopter with an extensive mission capability that includes Search and Rescue (SAR). The new helicopter will enter into service immediately and be used to offer a SAR capability to the Canary Island.
The aircraft carried out final test flights at the Albacete plant late September, where it was painted and fitted with specific mission systems enhancing its Search and Rescue (SAR) and Personnel Recovery/CSAR missions. The Air Force’s H215 boasts additional fuel tanks that extend its range up to 560 kilometers, an emergency buoyancy system, a high-frequency radio, a hoist, and a cockpit compatible with night vision goggles, among other equipment.
The Spanish Air Force operates several helicopters belonging to the Super Puma family, in both civil and military versions. A member of the Super Puma family, the H215 is a twin-engine, heavy helicopter. Its cockpit is equipped with multi-function digital screens and an advanced 4-axis autopilot which provides flight envelope protection and stability, even the harshest operating conditions.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Atlantic Airways is expanding its fleet. After ordering additional helicopter the “national” airline of the Faroe Island now firmed up an order for a new Airbus A320.
The Airbus order was confirmed on 9 June 2015. The A320 is meant to increase capacity on the line between the Faroes and Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark which controls the island group north of Scotland, halfway between Norway and Iceland.
Atlantic Airways’ A320 will have 168 seats, with the aircraft joining the three Airbus A319s currently operated by the company. Flying to and from the Faroe can be challenging due to the weather conditions. That’s why Atlantic Airways was the first airline in Europe to use the so-called Required Navigation Performance (RNP) to make it fly precisely along predefined routes using on-board navigation systems. The feature is built in into the new aircraft as well.
The new A320 will be delivered at the end of 2016.
Coming in 2016 as well, but rather at the beginning of the year, are two new AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters. Atlantic Airways ordered them in May this year. The new choppers will replace two 20-year old Bell 412s that provide line services between the Faroe islands. The new choppers are able to accommodate 15 passengers, against nine on the Bells. Atlantic Airways’ choppers are frequently flown on behalf of companies in the offshore oil industry.
The AW139s are capable to operate all the way to the outer limits of the 200 nautical mile territorial border of the Faroe islands and stay on station – for example during a rescue operation – for 30 minutes. The Bell 412s could only reach 127 nautical miles from base to be able to stay on the job for half an hour. For emergency purposes the AW139s can carry two stretchers. Operated by a crew of two, there will be then still be enough space for four other people in the cabin. On the Bell there is only room for a single stretcher and three people.
In emergency situations the AW139 can increase its normal cruise of 140 knots (260 kmh) to 163 knots (303 kmh), against the Bells flying 105 knots (195 kmh) at all times. Like the new Airbus A320 the AW139s will be equipped with RNP technology.