Norwegian operator Lufttransport AS will be able to perform all-weather search and rescue missions in the Arctic, after awarding Heli-One a contract to upgrade and modify two Eurocopter AS332L1s. As a result, from 2014, Lufttransport says it will be responsible for operating the most northern AWSAR operation in the world, based in Svalbard, Norway.
The conditions at 78 degrees north are extreme, with round-the-clock winter darkness, and there will be a dependence upon this service in what is a large operating area. The all-weather capability of the AS332L1 aircraft is said to be a critical element to mission success.
Hans Arne Jensen, director of business development for Lufttransport, cited Heli-One's engineering prowess and SAR expertise as key elements of the winning bid for the contract: “The two AS332L1s are undergoing an essential modification programme in order to comply with our requirements, and Heli-One engineering has provided us with access to solutions derived from their unique knowledge in modification of helicopters used for SAR operations to the most dangerous and challenging areas on earth,” he says.
The modified aircraft are scheduled to begin operations in the spring of 2014 from Svalbard, which is midway between mainland Norway and the North Pole. The Heli-One upgrades include EuroNav moving map systems, forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera systems, automatic identification system (AIS) transponders and Goodrich dual hoists, along with more than a dozen other modifications.
Jensen explains the importance of investing in not one but two Super Pumas: “Having two identical helicopters will allow for comprehensive training, redun-dancy and reassurance to the decision makers prior to and during missions.
“We anticipate over 70 SAR missions a year. Our biggest challenge remains one of human nature: teamwork. We are working hard on ensuring that all personnel act together, learning from experience to help develop everything, right up to those who deploy on land via snow scooter.”