The versatility master

The AS350 B3 Ecureuil operated by National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) in New South Wales, Australia, would probably win the top prize for a helicopter dedicated to environmental work – both from the point of view of its high daily average utilisation and the mixed nature of its missions.


The National Parks & Wildlife Service AS350 B3 Ecureuil is named Park Air 1. It flies between 800 and 1,000 flight hours per year, with utilisation sometimes exceeding 12 hours a day ! Based at Bankstown Airport in Sydney, the helicopter belongs to the Department of Environment and Climate Change of the state of New South Wales, and its role is to ensure the preservation of the fauna and flora of the national parks. The helicopter performs a wide array of missions, ranging from fire fighting, crop dusting, insect control, and controlling the population of wild animals, to more traditional missions such as winching specialised personnel, transporting external loads, and training.

Extreme conditions
According to Steve Pulbrook, who is the NPWS chief pilot, the AS350 B3 Ecureuil is the ideal utility platform for their missions. “With the AS350 B3, we can work in areas where it was not possible before, especially in very low density atmospheres, at altitudes of up to 7,300 feet (2,225 metres), and at temperatures of +30°C, although the extremes can also reach –10°C and +47°C.” The qualities that Steve Pulbrook singles out are the aircraft’s manoeuvrability which is “essential for chase wild animals”, its performance and its cabin volume. The flat cabin floor also “improves the loading capacity and the freedom of movement onboard.” Another feature that Steve Pulbrook highlights, which is also vital when operating a single aircraft at this intense level, is its reliability which is “very high thanks to the quality of the maintenance carried out by Australian Aerospace.” And this overall level of satisfaction could well lead NPWS to expand its fleet of AS350 B3 Ecureuils.


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