The remaining six aircraft out of 16 are currently being assembled, integrated and tested at Leonardo’s site in Yeovil, UK. The 330 squadron of the Royal Norwegian Air Force, which operates the platform, has completed more than 200 flight hours, largely on search and rescue (SAR) operations, which have included several lifesaving missions in the inhospitable Norwegian environment, such as a night mountain rescue, an offshore rescue, as well as a challenging emergency transportation. Further to the go-live of Sola in September 2020, further bases in Ørland and Banak are expected to become operational this year.
On 4 March, a flight crew comprised of Lee Evans, Senior Test Pilot at Leonardo Helicopters, and Miles Barnett, Senior Test Pilot at Leonardo Helicopters, adhered to the most stringent and strict regulations when operating the AW101 AWSAR helicopter during Covid-19.
Adhering to rigorous Covid-19 measures
The crew adhered to rigorous Covid-19 operating procedures, with the appropriate respiratory protection equipment (RPE) and personal protective equipment. The crew utilized their innovative helmet and oxygen masks, developed onsite at Leonardo in Yeovil. This technology allows the crew to operate the aircraft while in close proximity to each other in the cockpit. This unique technology uses an existing oxygen mask, which is compatible with existing helmets / visors, and has a built-in microphone and hose, which is connected via a standard filter from an RPE facemask.
The crew employed additional procedures specifically for this transit, including immediate return via a chartered aircraft and ensured negligible contact with the Norwegian customer.
Using technologies to support a safe mission
The aircraft set off from Yeovil early in the morning, the helicopter at take-off was in low cloud with poor visibility. Evans and Barnett climbed into the clouds for the duration of the transit. It was during these challenging conditions that the AW101’s crew used its technologies to support a safe mission. During the five flying hours, the crew used the aircraft’s full icing clearance and navigation and flight control systems.
Barnett said: “As with all Leonardo products and operations; the effect that the platform and crew delivered was only possible as a result of the dedication, experience, and knowledge from the broadest range of experts. Within the current circumstances, the flexibility and adaptation that have been evident throughout the design, production, and testing phases have revealed the incredible motivation of a team that has focussed on delivery to the customer.”