On 2 August, an Airbus H225 helicopter operated by Air Center Helicopters Inc (ACHI) brought NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley back to dry land following the splashdown of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule in the Gulf of Mexico, after an 18-hour flight from the International Space Station. Two of ACHI's H225 helicopters were prepared and ready to assist in the crew and cargo transport from the main recovery ship back to Pensacola, Florida.
“We are proud to be joined with the SpaceX and NASA teams assisting in the recovery of astronauts in the first water landing since 1975,” says Rod Tinney, CEO of ACHI. “We look forward to flying our H225s to support SpaceX with all its rotary wing needs and to playing a critical role in returning human spaceflight to the United States. This success comes from a culmination of great teamwork between three partners and ended in a flawless recovery.”
ACHI is now the largest civil operator of H225 aircraft, with a total of 20 H225s in its fleet, along with two AS332 Super Pumas and four H125s. Tinney and his teams have set up a multitude of critical operations with the H225 and Super Puma aircraft, including PR/CASEVAC missions overseas, shipboard vertical replenishment missions with the US Navy, as well as firefighting with an upcoming revamped configuration.
In addition to the vital role the Airbus H225 played in the NASA and SpaceX Crew Dragon mission, Airbus Helicopters also continues to support the United States space programme through other platforms, including the recent contract of three H135 helicopters for NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The H135s will be operated for a variety of missions, including security during rocket launches, emergency medical services and qualified personnel transport. Two of the helicopters are scheduled for delivery later this year, with a third planned for early 2021.