author Christina GOTZHEIN
FB Heliservices Ltd. clocks up 250,000 Flight Hours with Eurocopter AS350 BB ‘Squirrel’ Fleet as Defence Helicopter Flying School celebrates 10th Anniversary
FB Heliservices Limited, headquartered in Basingstoke in the United Kingdom, has just achieved 250,000 flight hours with its fleet of 38 AS350 BB ‘Squirrel’ helicopters, marking an impressive milestone in its history. The aircraft entered service in 1997 and are operated for the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence’s Defence Helicopter Flying School (DHFS) which is now in its tenth year of service.
“We find the AS350 BB to be the perfect aircraft for our training missions, which range from ab-initio to tactical mission training”, stated Peter Richardson, Managing Director of FB Heliservices. “Our ‘Squirrel’ fleet performs an average of 25,000 flight hours per year, is reliable and easy to maintain”, he continued.
In 1996, following a highly competitive fly-off competition in which the AS350 BB was presented to the UK Ministry of Defence, FB Heliservices with a consortium of companies then known as FBS (FR Aviation, Bristow Helicopters and Serco) won the competition to supply the Defence Helicopter Flying School at RAF Shawbury with 38 modified ‘Squirrels’ to be known as AS350 BB, featuring a derated Arriel engine for enhanced life cycle reasons.
Starting in 1997 and completed in less than twelve months, a production line was established by Eurocopter seeing 38 AS350 BBs produced at Marignane, delivered to McAlpine Helicopters Ltd., Eurocopter’s distributor in the UK, where the aircraft were significantly outfitted, and then flown to Bournemouth Airport for final detailing work by FR Aviation Ltd.
The helicopters are provided to the Ministry of Defence DHFS as a turn-key training system where to a significant extent civilian instructors train all the UK Ministry of Defence’s intake of helicopter pilots. Twenty-six helicopters are shared between the Central Flying School (CFS) and the basic training squadrons at RAF Shawbury. The CFS helicopters are used to train instructors and aircrewmen. Instructors and the basic training machines provide ab-initio training for student helicopter pilots. Six of the AS350 BBs are fitted with hoists and floats to enable overwater hoist training. The remaining twelve helicopters, all fitted with NVG cockpits, are located at the Army's Middle Wallop airfield in Wiltshire where they are used for the advanced and tactical phases of the training of Army pilots.
FB Heliservices and its sister company, FBS Ltd., are joint venture companies owned by FR Aviation Group Ltd. and Bristow Helicopters Ltd. to specialise in the provision of helicopters and associated services to the military and government markets. The company operates a total of 60 helicopters around the world supporting a variety of training, operational and Search and Rescue missions and employs 80 helicopter instructors, 420 engineers and 200 support staff.
Established in 1992, the Franco-German-Spanish Eurocopter Group is a Division of EADS, a world leader in aerospace, defence and related services. The Eurocopter Group employs approx. 14,000 people. In 2006, Eurocopter confirmed its position as the world’s No. 1 helicopter manufacturer with a turnover of 3.8 billion euros, orders for 615 new helicopters, and a 52% percent market share in the civil and parapublic sectors. Overall, the Group’s products account for 30% percent of the total world helicopter fleet. Its strong worldwide presence is ensured by its 17 subsidiaries on five continents, along with a dense network of distributors, certified agents and maintenance centres. More than 9,800 Eurocopter helicopters are currently in service with over 2,500 customers in 140 countries. Eurocopter offers the largest civil and military helicopter range in the world.
100 years of vertical flight
In 1907, Paul Cornu performed history’s first ever vertical flight. Since then, thanks to pioneering spirits, technological advances and innovative minds, the helicopter has become a key to saving lives, protecting citizens and contributing to economic development the world over. In 2007, Eurocopter is proud to celebrate this anniversary and to share its passion for helicopters.
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