Ecureuil scores success in South America

When the Argentine National Gendarmerie (GNA) recently made plans to renew its helicopter fleet (1), it did not take long to choose a model: the AS350 B3 Ecureuil was deemed ideal for coping with Argentina’s extreme geographic and climatic diversity.

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Interview with Commandant-General Eusebio Albornoz, director of the social welfare and public health department at the Argentine National Gendarmerie, and Principal Commandant Héctor Sangalli.

“We opted for the Ecureuil because it perfectly suits our needs. We often have to work under extreme conditions, including summer temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius in the north-eastern part of the country, flight altitudes of more than 5,000 metres in the Andes, and constant wind speeds of up to 30 knots in Patagonia. Having been a highly satisfied customer of the Lama for three decades, we decided to obtain data from other countries currently using the Ecureuil. All these aspects were decisive in our choice of helicopter. The six-seat configuration ideally meets our operational requirements. It is particularly suitable for transporting our five-strong patrol teams and their light equipment on missions to fight drug trafficking, especially in the scrublands. It is also extremely useful for mountain rescue operations, medical and logistical support in crisis situations, reconnaissance missions, transporting public officials, and all other missions carried out on a daily basis by the Gendarmerie. At present, we own four helicopters of the same family. Our first experience dates back to 1995, when we purchased an AS350 B Ecureuil which fully satisfied our requirements. We recently signed a letter of intent for the purchase of two more units in 2008, as the next step in replacing our current fleet. This will help to standardise our training procedures, facilitate our maintenance activities, and ultimately reduce costs. Our first aircraft maintenance team, which comprised an engineer and a group of aircraft mechanics, was trained in Brazil. In 2007, we then sent four pilots, an engineer and two mechanics to Eurocopter Training Services in Marignane to take part in a new course. As far as maintenance is concerned, we have always opted for Eurocopter’s after-sales service. This was originally performed by Helibras until the foundation of Eurocopter Chile, which then took over. Periodic maintenance activities, however, are carried out by the Gendarmerie’s own team of mechanics.”

(1) 4 Lamas, 4 Hughes 500s, 4 AS350 Ecureuils (1 B, 1 B2, 2 B3s)