Heli Austria is appreciating the extra capacity afforded by its second Bell 212 helicopter which arrived in the spring, and is also looking forward to the imminent entry into service of its other B212 following a full upgrade in recent weeks.
Ceo and owner Roy Knaus says that the latest rotorcraft complements the existing 212, which arrived last October from Sweden, and the pair is combining to ease his operation: “We started the current project in April last year. One aircraft is already in operation and the other will follow soon; it is in completion and final assembly. Over the last couple of months there has been a complete rewiring of the aircraft, with new Garmin avionics and other upgrades, including titanium engine decks and side decks. It is essentially a brand new aircraft, with an old serial number and data plate.”
The operator had planned to have just one aircraft in service, but then had the opportunity to acquire the second one. It had already operated a B412 since 2010 and so benefitted from adding additional aircraft of the same type. “We decided to standardise the fleet, because we had a Bell 204B, and we decided to go for three mediums from the same type certificate,” Knaus adds.
“We operated the 204 and the 212 side by side. It's a different license and different spare parts. With the 412 and the 212 you have the same type rating; there's no additional cost for your optimum performance capa-bility. About 80 per cent of the parts are the same and the drive train and engines are identical. The main difference is in the main rotor head, swashplate and main rotor blades.”
He believes that the 212s are well suited because, in his view, there are no rivals in the up to 1.8 tonnes category. “We can carry up to 13 passengers or 1.8 tonnes in sling cargo, and we mainly use it for external cargo. It is extremely reliable, it has got good performance, and it has got very good support for the parts. The reliability of the engine itself is always important, and this is a very good engine.”
For 2015 he plans to 'see what else we get' and he admits that he is happy with the size of the Bell medium fleet as it stands. “We might do something else in the light aircraft category, but we are currently investigating the Bell 407 with the enhanced engine, compared to the AS350B3e, and in Canada they are just making a new STC for a FADEC controlled Honeywell engine.
“This should outperform a B3e by around 400 lbs when hot and high. We will probably wait until HAI Heli Expo in 2015 to see how far they have got with the approval.”