A strong environmental culture

The protection of the environment is an integral part of Canadian culture. And, in a land where the helicopter is already king, it is normal that missions of this type are performed by the rotary wing aircraft of the numerous Ministries of Natural Resources of the Canadian provinces, which have their own aviation departments.


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With 22 planes and seven helicopters, including four Eurocopter aircraft, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources could be mistaken for a small airline. The ministry was even the first operator of the EC130 B4 in Canada, which entered into service alongside three AS350 B2 AStars. These aircraft are widely used all year round, and all over the province, for all sorts of environmental protection missions. In total, 3,800 flight hours are performed each year – all aircraft and mission types combined. The most frequent type of mission concerns various wildlife research programmes on animals such as caribou, wolves, tortoises, turtles, beavers and bears, and on birds such as geese and ducks. The studies focus on the population of individual native or reintroduced species (moose, Canadian elks, wild turkeys and peregrine falcons), and also their migration. Some of these studies rely on the use of electronic collars to track the animals. These collars are fitted beforehand, after the birds or animals have been immobilised by an anaesthetic that could be administered at a distance directly from the helicopters using a dart rifle. The helicopters also perform other more unusual missions, such as administering rabies vaccines to the animals by leaving doses on the ground, which are unpalatable to foxes, or even supplying fishing lakes with juvenile fish or farmed eggs, which are transported in incubator-like containers supplied with oxygen. This operator is extremely satisfied with the Eurocopter helicopters, emphasising the available power, the payload, and the cabin volume and visibility. The Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources operates five helicopters, including an EC120 B Colibri, which perform the same type of missions, as well as “ecological” surveillance of forests (checking for tree disease and the presence of insects), and enforcing the laws governing fishing, hunting, waste disposal, fires, pollution, and the felling of trees. The observation of land animals focuses in particular on moose, white tail deer and beavers, and gives rise to a biennial campaign of flights, usually based in an outlying region and lasting approximately one month, during which roughly 100 flight hours are recorded. These campaigns are performed in line with very precise techniques. Using a grid provided by the ministry, which divides the region to be studied into a certain number of one-kilometre squares, the observation flights are performed at very low altitude, firstly following lateral axes and then the contours of each square. This time round, the qualities singled out by this operator are the quantity of fuel that can be carried, the comfort and the silence: a silence which usually permits the crew to approach the animals without startling them.



_AUTHOR: RÉGIS NOYÉ



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