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Poland to acquire 23 EC135s to modernise ageing EMS network
The Polish Ministry of Health has signed a contract for 23 EC135s to serve its nationwide EMS network. The helicopters, to be delivered between 2009 and 2010, will replace an ageing fleet of Mi-2s.

The Polish Ministry of Health has signed a contract for 23 EC135s to serve its nationwide EMS network. The helicopters, to be delivered between 2009 and 2010, will replace an ageing fleet of Mi-2s. The ministry says they will enable Poland's air rescue system to become fully compliant with European JAR OPS-3 standards and that an EC135 flight simulator is also part of the contract.

The selection of the EC135 follows an international tender, according to public procurement law, issued by the ministry. The fleet of 23 helicopters will serve bases all over Poland and will be operated by the Ministry's Lotnicze Pogotowie Ratunkowe (LPR) organisation.

The ministry says Poland will now be able to offer the same high standard of helicopter EMS as neighbouring EU countries such as Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania. It says factors that led to the choice of the EC135 included its versatility, track record in hard mission environments and its cost-efficiency.

Lutz Bertling, Eurocopter ceo, says the company will also provide the maintenance in Warsaw for the EC135s along with pilot training. Heli Invest of Warsaw has a distributorship agreement which includes the full Part 145 support. The order is one of several that confirms the continuing buoyancy of helicopter demand in Europe (EBAN July).

Eurocopter says that a number of police air support and EMS operations in the U.K. and Ireland are upgrading helicopters which, over the past 25 years, have evolved from the BO105, BK117 and AS355 to the EC135 and now the EC145. The London Metropolitan Police has the first U.K. police air support unit to operate the EC145.

For offshore operations, the Bristow Group has exercised its option to purchase two more EC225s. It plans to have 15 EC225s in operation by the end of 2011. Bristow is also acquiring three EC135 twins and has the option to purchase one additional light aircraft.

The EC225s will be deployed globally to serve Bristow's oil and gas customers with heavy twin-engine helicopters in all climate conditions for crew changes and SAR operations. Currently, Bristow operates six EC225s in the North Sea. "Bristow will deploy the EC225s in the second half of 2009 in response to continued strong demand from our global customer base," says Mark Duncan, Bristow svp, western hemisphere. "We recently increased our outstanding options for this aircraft type from two to seven, for potential delivery in 2010 and 2011, depending on future market demand. This is a safe, reliable and efficient aircraft that our customers are increasingly asking for."

Duncan says the EC225 provides superior speed and range, maximum passengers and payload, plus reliability. It also offers modern avionics, auto pilot capability and the comfort of a five-blade main rotor.

Meanwhile, the U.K. Maritime and Coastguard Agency has brought advanced technology AgustaWestland 139s into operation from purpose-built hangars at their bases in Lee-on-Solent and Portland. The helicopters are being provided by CHC Helicopters who won an interim contract from 2007 to 2012 to provide SAR from four civilian-operated bases which will also include Stornoway and Sumburgh in Scotland. Rod Johnson, chief coastguard, says: "They provide a robust SAR asset that is a huge technological and operational advance from its predecessor. The technology on board is arguably the most advanced in SAR today."

Other helicopter orders include those from charter, private and corporate operators. Switzerland's Air Engiadina, operated by Swiss Jet, has added an AW119 Ke (Koala enhanced) to its helicopter fleet. The upgraded model is used for sightseeing, air taxi and vip flights. The company already operates an AW119 Koala and a Grand light twin and has ordered two AW139 medium twins.

Air Engiadina says the eight-seat AW119 Ke offers high performance and a multi-role capability with a maximum take-off weight of 6,283 lbs. "It meets the most demanding hot and high operational requirements and offers a large cabin and luggage capacity with the lowest cost per seat-mile."

Based at Engadin in Samedan, Switzerland, Air Engiadina offers charter flights, aircraft leasing and pleasure flights to customers. "We fly passengers to almost any destination in Switzerland and throughout Europe using our fleet of aircraft and helicopters," the company says. Regular destinations include St. Gallen, Berne, Lugano, Geneva, Milan, Munich, the Cote d'Azur and London. Arosa, Flims/Laax, Samnaun are among other destinations served by the helicopters.

Michaniki S.A. of Greece has placed an order for a Grand twin in vip configuration – a purchase Agusta Westland says marks the helicopter's debut in the Greek commercial helicopter market. The company says the Grand provides a good level of cabin space and payload, advanced avionics, high safety levels, low operating costs and excellent serviceability. Michaniki, a major construction company, undertakes the construction of major infrastructure and building projects including highways, bridges and tunnels.

Meanwhile, the first Grand light twin helicopter sold in Russia has been delivered to its private owner. The Grand joins a number of AW119 and AW109 Power helicopters that are already in service with private and corporate clients in Russia.

Irish HeliExpo 2008 says exhibitors for 2008 include Air Harrods, Eurocopter, Hennesy Aviation, London Helicopters N.I., Premier Aviation, Rose Aviation, Coptercovers, the Irish Aviation Authority, SkyWest, Lombards, Bank of Scotland and Sloane along with other manufacturers and dealers across Ireland and Europe. "This level of participation shows a buoyancy in the helicopter market with recent reports of a 400 per cent increase in the numbers of private pilot licenses held in Ireland," says Andrea Bland, event business manager.

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