The frozen North

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.


© Pegasus Helikopter AS
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The Norwegian company Pegasus Helikopter AS specialises in the fertilisation of lakes and rivers, and sometimes certain areas of land.

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.

Water detection
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.

Water fertilisation
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 several days.

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.


© Westhelicopter
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The Swedish company Westhelicopter AB performs geophysical exploration missions as well as missions to detect natural water reserves in the ground.


© Eurocopter/W. Obrusnik
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Since receiving its first EC135 in 2002, Uni Fly A/S has performed 13,000 maintenance operations on 80 wind turbines in the North Sea.


© Air Greenland Image Bank/Arne Fleischer
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Air Greenland operates 11 AS350 Ecureuils for mineral exploration, which is carried out in an ecologically friendly manner.


_AUTHOR: RÉGIS NOYÉ


The squirell harvest walnuts

“Walnuts harvested by helicopter” were on offer last autumn at the markets of the Drôme department in south-eastern France. Indeed, tired of waiting for the walnuts to fall in their own time, walnut farmers in the Grenoble region joined together to call on the aid of the helicopter. An Ecureuil, the French name for squirrel, flying three to four metres above the trees, produced exactly the effect they were looking for: the force of the rotor downwash on the branches was powerful enough to shake free all of the walnuts in one fell swoop. “And not only is the helicopter not more expensive than traditional methods, it is more effective and more reliable, and entirely environmentally friendly. In two missions of three hours each, the helicopter can cover some 200 hectares, harvesting in hours what the farm machinery usually take days to accomplish. Plus, the roots of the walnut trees, which are very close to the surface, were in constant danger of being exposed by machine harvesting. The helicopter has no effect on the trunk or root system,” Georges Moulin, director of Jet Systems, makes clear. Jet Systems performed this mission to perfection, and walnut harvesting can now be added to the assignments carried out by helicopters, which are already used to dry the vines of wine growers.


_AUTHOR: RÉGIS NOYÉ