After CHC’s bankruptcy and two years of storage for its old H225 fleet, the first two aircraft bought by Ukraine were put back into service. A good deal for Kiev who will acquire a powerful fleet at a lower cost.
In 2016, after the bankruptcy of the operator CHC, the banks owning the leased helicopters repatriated 21 H225 to France, mainly from Scotland and Norway, but also from Uruguay, Brazil, Australia and East Timor. The company Airtelis was responsible in charge for their storage on the ground in Avignon, in the south of France. The storage provisions initially responded to short-term constraints. But after one year, as the aircraft did not sell, the decision was made to mothball the aircraft to deal with organize a longer storage conditions, including the use of a waterproof cover to create a void around each cell. “We then appealed to the American company Protective Packaging Corporation, which came to Avignon to train our operators”, explains Rémi Magar, Airtelis’s Technical Director. “We worked together on the first three aircraft and then we were autonomous in the implementation of the process”.
Over the last two years, several potential French and foreign customers came to inspect the helicopters. If the book value of an H225 was about $ 15 million according to the business paper La Tribune, its real value, dictated by the market, was significantly lower. So there was a good deal to be done. The General Delegation for Armaments representing the French armies was among the visitors but the lot did not interest the French authorities. Last In July 2018, Airbus Helicopters finally announced the sale to Ukraine of the 21 aircraft as well as ten H145 and 24 H125 for a total of 550 million Euros. Airbus Helicopters then very quickly consulted various companies, including Airtelis, for the re-flight putting the aircraft back in flight conditions. The timing schedule was very tight, with the planned delivery of the first four aircraft being scheduled to be delivered to Ukraine by the end of 2018.
“We had the capacity to handle two aircraft in four months and Airbus gave us this work” Rémi Magar explained. “The other two other aircraft in the first batch of four were shipped to Albacete for refit to be refitted by Airbus Helicopters Spain“.
Airtelis’s workshops are Part 145 and part M certified and employ some 30 mechanics and airworthiness specialists on its various French bases. They are responsible for the maintenance of the two H225 and H215 used by RTE (Réseau Transport Electricité) for the infrastructure and maintenance works of the power lines. To cope with the required volume of work, required, approximately 4500 hours per aircraft, Airtelis has however used temporary workers.
To get the aircraft flight-ready, they went through a complete undressing and the equivalent of a visit of 1200 hours check. The requirement of the Ukrainians was required to have a minimum potential of 300 hours on each unit upon delivery, which corresponded more or less to a full year of use for this type of government apparatus. The engines have been revised by Safran Helicopter Engines and have returned with a potential of 4000 flying hours. The switch to the factory was also an opportunity to upgrade to standard 2A1 the few Makila 2A turboshaft engines still present in the CHC fleet. The rotor masts and the main gear boxes were revised by Airbus Helicopters.
The aircraft were repainted at Airtelis’ facilities under the colors of the two future users: red and white for the Ministry of the Interior’s search and rescue aircraft, and gray camouflage uniform for those of the National Guard, who will replace Mi8 for transport missions.
The first fixed points ground tests were made on November 22, 2018 by an Airtelis crew. After a first simulator training session in Aberdeen, six pilots were then qualified on the aircraft in three weeks and about ten flight hours of flight per flight. The training was conducted by Airbus Helicopters instructors on an Airtelis aircraft. The first two recovered H225s were delivered to Airbus Helicopters on December 18th, 2018 and immediately ferried .They are then very quickly distributed in flight to Kiev where they arrived on December 20th, two days later.
As you read these words, the allocation of a next batch of three aircraft, for which Airtelis has bid, could have been announced. According to the schedule agreed with Ukraine, three aircraft will have to be operational in 2019, seven in 2020 and the last seven in 2021.