The Nordic countries are major users of helicopters. Along with planes
equipped with skis, they are the only means of transport in the most northerly
latitudes, particularly on Greenland where there are almost no roads
and the coastal transport routes are blocked by ice for part of the year.
In these countries, the AS350 Ecureuil is highly prized for its operational
capabilities, and is widely used in the field of environmental preservation.
Prospecting for minerals
Called upon to perform intense activities of a very varied nature, the national company Air Greenland operates 11 AS350 Ecureuils. These helicopters are particularly used for mineral exploration, which is carried out in an ecological way in Greenland. “One local company, and also several companies from Canada and even Australia, use our helicopters to transport their geophysical detection instruments either inside the aircraft or externally. These instruments can detect all types of ore non-destructively. This year, the American company has even chartered two Ecureuils on a full-time basis to allow its scientific teams of archaeologists, biologists and geologists to decide on the best locations to establish its smelters and hydroelectric power stations from an environmental point of view,” explains Hans Peter Hansen, the director of Air Greenland’s charter and cargo division. Furthermore, other Ecureuil aircraft are also being used for more scientific missions, on the ice fields, for, respectively, the Danish Meteorological Institute and Veco Polar Resources, which organises the logistics for the US National Science Foundation, NASA and several universities.
The same electromagnetic technique is used by the Swedish company Westhelicopter AB in all of the Nordic countries, working on behalf of the Danish private geophysical exploration company, SkyTEM. This technique is also applied to the detection of natural water reserves in the ground. SkyTEM has been developing this procedure since 2004 using a highly advanced process, which consists of a radar antenna array deployed 30 metres below an AS350 B2 Ecureuil-type helicopter, on a rigid, hexagonal structure. By flying at a maximum height of 30 metres above the ground (this height is controlled by laser), and at a speed of 25 knots, the radar can provide extremely accurate information to a depth of 350 metres. “The aircraft’s endurance is approximately three hours, which is a real plus for this type of mission,” explains the helicopter’s pilot, Benny Lindberg. Westhelicopter also operates EC120 B Colibris – elected by the company as the most environmentally friendly helicopter in terms of noise and pollution.
The Norwegian company Pegasus Helikopter AS specialises in the fertilisation of lakes and rivers, and sometimes certain areas of land. Since 1999, the company has been performing missions of this type for the Norwegian Ministry of the Environment, using AS350 Ecureuils exclusively. These missions consist in ensuring the ecological balance of the country’s entire natural water system, combating pollution to boost the reproduction of the most sought-after fish (especially trout) and the flora that they need. The technique primarily consists in treating the water in the hills and mountains,
so that the products will then flow down into the streams
and rivers. These missions are therefore performed in
places that are often inaccessible, which requires major
logistics planning. The operation consists in pouring
hundreds, even thousands of tonnes of fertiliser, from
tanks attached to the end of a sling in several round trips.
According to the director of operations, John B. Glenne,
the most valued qualities of the Ecureuil for this type of
mission are its power reserve, its comfort, and reliability.
Proof of this reliability is the fact that the team does not
bring along a technician, even for a mission lasting
Wind turbine maintenance
Ever since Uni Fly A/S received its first EC135 in 2002,
almost 13,000 maintenance operations have been
performed on 80 wind turbines in the North Sea, using
the EC135 exclusively. And all of these operations have
been carried out without a single incident. This record
makes this Danish operator a bona fide specialist in performing
this unique mission. Another remarkable fact is
that this helicopter only flies in bad weather because,
when the sea is calm, the technicians can be transported
by boat. The EC135 lowers two technicians three
or four metres to a specifically designed platform on the
wind turbine more than 80 metres above the sea.
According to the helicopter maintenance manager,
Frank Petersen, “the EC135 is the only twin-engine aircraft
in its category which provides such high levels of
safety for hoisting operations and such a large cabin.”
This high level of safety is provided in two ways: the
helicopter is able to withstand the wind, which allows it
to remain stable; and the right conditions are maintained
in which the hoisting can be completed if one of the
engines should fail.