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Northern NSW : Rescue Autumn 2017
It’s a lot of years to share with a machine, we have spent a lot of time to get the Bell 412 to its current standard and it performed a lot of rescues. Fighting fire with fire MATTHEW WALLACE, CHIEF ENGINEER After 23 years, 14,000 flight hours and many seemingly impossible missions, the Service recently farewelled the iconic Bell 412 aircraft. Saying goodbye was quite an ordeal and packing it up was a big logistical exercise. The Bell 412 was a 1986 model and when it came under our care in 1993, it had about 3,000 hours on it. We carried out a major refurbishment in Queensland after every 3,000 hours, which means we are offloading a 40 year old aircraft with 17,000 hours that’s in extremely good condition. The helicopter has been sold to a German company, Agrarflug Helilift, which is a big operator of these aircraft and already has 34 Bell 412s and another six Bell 212s. Agrarflug Helilift leases them out on all sorts of contracts around the world and the one we are selling is probably going firefighting in Spain. There are strict compliance rules in the selling process. The helicopter has to be serviceable and free of any defects. A Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) delegate ensures everything is compliant. We need an Australian export certificate of airworthiness (C of A) and a German import C of A. So there’s an ‘out’ and an ‘in’ process of checking to ensure people aren’t farming aviation products that are likely to be unsafe. We had to package up all the history and all the compliance information – times, maintenance inspections, hours – and present it in a report. That’s part of the export C of A approval process. Then the owner can take it knowing the status of the aircraft. We’ve been operating on basically a skeleton staff of engineers while we trained for and phased-in the AgustaWestland 139s, set-up the new bases, and prepared the old aircraft for sale. The key thing for us going forward is setting up as a multi-base operator. The directive now is to take everything slow. We all have the goal to be an allround better engineer and I certainly have a dedicated bunch, but while we’re unfamiliar we’ll take it slow. The Bell 412 will be taking it slow for a while too. The aircraft many people associate with the Service had to be dismantled and secured to a large aluminium transport sheet. It was off to Sydney, then into the main deck cargo nose load of a 747 and on to Frankfurt, Germany, and finally to Agrarflug Helilift in Ahlen. The whole emergency medical system will be removed, along with the winch and all the heavy components such as the air-conditioning. They will want to reduce the weight so they can carry a heavier water bucket to be ready for the European summer season and firefighting contracts. Goodbye makes the journey harder still. Rescue Magazine AUTUMN 2017 19
Rescue Winter 2017