Rescue vehicle

AirKnight has announced details of its technical solution for the UK’s Search and Rescue Helicopter (SAR-H) service using Eurocopter’s EC225.




The consortium, consisting of VT Group, British International Helicopters (BIH) and Lockheed Martin, believes that its choice of aircraft combined with technical upgrades will provide the UK with a flexible SAR-H capability for the next 30 years.



Bid director, Tom Gordon, said: ‘Our vision is that this service will cater for the changing needs of the UK. The EC225 is certainly designed for the rigours of search and rescue. The helicopter entered service in 2005 and currently has more than 30,000 flight hours.’



The EC225 is the latest member of the Super Puma family of helicopters. According to the group, it can carry more than 12 casualties, fly for 500 miles without refuelling and claims to offer limited downwash compared to larger helicopters.



Additional upgrades include a four-axis flight control system, back-up for dual channel failure, larger cabin space and a de-icing system for flight in continuous icing conditions.



Tim MacMahon, Eurocopter UK director of defence business, said: ‘This helicopter has one of the most advanced four-axis flight control systems in the world. Comfort in SAR is particularly important especially if you’re bringing someone back in a critical condition. The rotor design means that the faster you go the smoother the aircraft gets.’



The aircraft also features external pod fuel tanks in order to save cabin space and provide 45 minutes of additional time during cruise flight, and includes an extra rear cabin tank that could add a further 20 minutes to flight.



Macmahon added: ‘This is a whole package offering. It’s not just a smarter four-axis system, but also includes features such as automatic flyaway capability and increased accuracy from the GPS-based system.’



AirKnight’s technical announcement comes a week after rival consortium, Soteria, revealed details of the SAR variant of the Sikorsky S92.



Under current SAR-H plans, the new helicopters will be introduced in 2012, however, a date for the final decision from the SAR-H team has yet to be confirmed.



Ellie Zolfagharifard