Despite the challenges posed by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Leonardo has successfully delivered the tenth AW101 All-Weather Search and Rescue (AWSAR) helicopter to the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security.
The remaining six aircraft out of 16 are currently being assembled, integrated and tested at Leonardo’s site in Yeovil, UK. The 330 squadron of the Royal Norwegian Air Force, which operates the platform, has completed more than 200 flight hours, largely on SAR operations, which have included several life-saving missions in the inhospitable Norwegian environment, such as a night mountain rescue, an offshore rescue, as well as a challenging emergency transportation. Further to the go-live of Sola in September 2020, further bases in Ørland and Banak are expected to become operational this year.
On Thursday 4th March, a flight crew comprised of Lee Evans, Senior Test Pilot at Leonardo Helicopters (UK), alongside Miles Barnett, Senior Test Pilot at Leonardo Helicopters (UK), adhered to the most stringent and strictest regulations when operating the AW101 AWSAR helicopter during Covid-19.
The crew adhered to rigorous Covid-19 operating procedures, with the appropriate Respiratory Protection equipment (RPE) and Personal Protective Equipment. The crew utilised their innovative helmet and oxygen mask, developed on-site at Leonardo in Yeovil. This technology allows the crew to operate the aircraft whilst in close proximity to each other in the cockpit. This unique technology uses an existing oxygen mask, which is compatible with existing helmets/visors, and has a built-in microphone for comms, and hose, which is connected via a standard filter from an RPE facemask.
The crew employed additional procedures specifically for this transit including immediate return via a chartered aircraft and ensured negligible contact with the Norwegian customer.
The aircraft set off from Yeovil early in the morning, the helicopter at take-off was in low cloud with poor visibility. Evans and Barnett climbed into the clouds for the duration of the transit. It was during these challenging conditions that the AW101’s crew used her cutting-edge technologies to support a safe mission. During the five flying hours, the crew used the aircraft’s full icing clearance and state-of-the-art navigation and flight control systems.
Barnett explained more, “With this reasonably simple task of delivering the AW101 to our customer in Norway, we utilised a broad selection of its capabilities to make the transit safer, easier, and more efficient. Systems that ranged from the all-weather ice protection and comprehensive automatic flight controls to the integrated multi-sensor and cockpit display system; this demonstrated why the AW101 is the perfect solution for the long-range SAR role.”
Evans added, “The AW101 NAWSARH is simply the most capable long range search and rescue helicopter on the planet. In the most extreme conditions it can utilise the range and on-board suite of integrated ‘latest generation’ sensors to reach, find, rescue, care for and recover survivors back to safety.”
He shared further that as a pilot the helicopter’s systems and technologies help to reduce his workload and increase situational awareness during arduous missions through the extensive application of automation and safety systems, such as automatic hover modes, radar, terrain awareness systems, and rotor blade proximity sensors.
Leonardo Helicopters: AW101 All-Weather Search and Rescue “SAR Queen”
The AW-101 benefits from three-engine safety, a full ice protection system for flight in known icing conditions, long range and endurance, a proven 30 minute “run dry” gearbox as well as multiple redundancy features in the avionic and mission systems. 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.
The helicopter is equipped with an advanced SAR equipment package including a multi-panel Osprey AESA surveillance radar system from Leonardo that provides 360° coverage, 4-axis digital Automatic Flight Control System (AFCS), two rescue hoists, searchlight, electro optical device and a fully integrated avionics and mission system. Other systems and equipment include a mobile telephone detection system, obstacle proximity warning system, weather radar, complete medical station and mission console.
Leonardo is providing initial support and training services, including spares at each of the operating bases and has recently completed the aircrew training for the initial group of aircrew. 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.
Leonardo has partnered with Norwegian companies AIM Aviation to provide maintenance services at the Royal Norwegian Air Force’s six operating bases and with Kongsberg Defence Systems to provide helicopter transmission repair and overhaul services in Norway.
An AW101 full flight simulator was commissioned in June 2017 at Sola Airport to provide in country training for aircrew in advance of aircraft deliveries and will be used by Norwegian aircrew and third parties to provide training that will both reduce training costs and improve safety by allowing crews to practice the full range of emergency procedures.