By Naomi Szeben
Leonardo delivered the tenth AW101 All-Weather Search and Rescue (AWSAR) helicopter to the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security, despite the ongoing pandemic.
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. Those 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 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), followed strict regulations when operating the AW101 AWSAR helicopter during Covid-19.
The crew adhered to Covid-19 operating procedures, with the appropriate Respiratory Protection equipment (RPE) and Personal Protective Equipment. The crew utilized their helmet and oxygen mask, developed on-site at Leonardo in Yeovil, which allows the crew to operate the aircraft whilst in close proximity to each other in the cockpit. The RPE 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 face mask.
The crew employed additional procedures specifically for this transit including immediate return via a chartered aircraft and ensured negligible contact with the Norwegian customer.
Barnett stated, “With this reasonably simple task of delivering the AW101 to our customer in Norway, we utilized 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 claimed that as a pilot, the helicopter’s systems and technologies help to reduce his workload and increase situational awareness during missions, thanks to its safety systems, such as automatic hover modes, radar, terrain awareness systems, and rotor blade proximity sensors.
Evans added, “The fact that the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security chose the AW101 AWSAR helicopter, for the Air Force’s next generation long range SAR helicopter – which will operate in the mountains, fjords and seas of the Arctic – speaks for itself. I am incredibly proud that the AW101 NAWSARH is designed, built, and tested in Yeovil.”