DRF Luftrettung is expanding its fleet with Airbus H145 helicopters equipped with five main rotor blades. Technicians at the company have started kitting out the first of five of these helicopters to be delivered this year for deployment at one of its air rescue bases. The technical work in DRF's aircraft maintenance hangar at Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden airport will take approximately one month, followed by test flights and training of the crew, before the aircraft is expected to start missions in April.
“With these developments, we can consistently pursue our central aim of saving people's lives,” states Krystian Pracz, DRF CEO. “We are proud to be the first here. We deliberately decided to deploy the five-bladed rotor system as soon as it became available on the market. With this investment, we are expanding our possibilities to provide fast and highly professional help to even more people in need; this corresponds with how we see ourselves, as an innovator that advances air rescue at the highest aviation, medical and technical levels in Germany and worldwide.”
Wolfgang Schoder, CEO of Airbus Helicopters Deutschland, adds: “We have worked intensively on the further development and would like to thank DRF Luftrettung for its confidence in our technology. We share the mission of our partner, to write new chapters in the history of air rescue.”
This order is the first of a total of five helicopters of the type H145 with a five-bladed rotor, which technicians at DRF Luftrettung in Rheinmünster will equip during the course of the year. The foundation was laid through a contract concluded between the parties in summer 2019. After the acceptance of the first helicopter by DRF Luftrettung in Donauwörth, Airbus Helicopters' German headquarters, its first flight was to the aircraft maintenance hangar at the DRF Luftrettung operation centre at Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden airport on 23 December. “With this helicopter, we have a new, state-of-the-art member of our fleet; this was like getting an early Christmas present,” Pracz adds.
Thanks to the new system, the H145 is lighter and offers greater performance. Thus, the crews can take up to 150 kgs (330 pounds) more useful load on board enabling better responses to unexpected requirements at the scene of the mission, such as taking additional medical personnel on board. If required, the air rescue helicopters can also accommodate additional fuel and fly longer routes.
“A helicopter constantly fights against the force of gravity. Every kilo less is a benefit towards a lighter and more secure flight,” explains Pracz. “This technical progress, and the fleet modernisation which is now commencing, will make a sustainable contribution towards fulfilling our responsibilities.” In addition to the new rotor, the H145 also has wi-fi integrated into the cockpit, through which pilots can import important data directly from a tablet to the onboard computer.
Before the new helicopter can enter service at one of DRF's nationwide bases, the interior will be fitted out at DRF Luftrettung's aircraft maintenance hangar. This includes fitting the patient stretcher, mountings for syringe pumps and the seats for the medical personnel. In addition, the DRF Luftrettung development operations will certify the weather radar, and test flights will be conducted. Finally, the first crew from an air rescue base will undergo standard training for missions. DRF has not yet announced which base this will be.
In the first quarter of the new year, the operator will also become the first Airbus customer worldwide to jointly carry out retrofits of existing aircraft with five rotor blades. The retrofitting is still be finalised in detail together with Airbus, and the required approvals and permits must be obtained. “This process is yet another very good and reliable cooperation with Airbus, and after leading the introduction of the H145 in 2015, we are proud to once again be the first customer of Airbus,” notes Pracz.
DRF plans to retrofit all of its existing H145 helicopters from four to five rotor blades within the next two years. In future DRF Luftrettung will also offer such retrofitting to external customers if spare capacity is available.