Earlier this summer, whilst visiting the Airbus facilities in Donauwörth, I noticed a new Airbus H.135 design in one of the hangars. This helicopter wore registration D-HEEY, but did not carry any visible construction number.
Several notable enhancements are evident in the new design. Firstly, the previously four-bladed main rotor has been replaced with a five-bladed main rotor, a feature previously observed on the H145-D3 and UH-72B. Users of the five-bladed H145-D3, namely DRF (Deutsche Luft Rettung) and ADAC, have reported positive experiences with this rotor type. It significantly reduces vibrations caused by the main rotor, improving the comfort of patients during transport.
Another notable change is the relocation of the stabilizer from the tail boom to a position atop the fenestron. This strategic move places the stabilizer beyond the influence of the downwash from the main rotor. Furthermore, the cockpit has been subtly streamlined, with larger windows in the sliding doors. The incorporation of expertise in composite materials, gained during the design of the H160, has led to a reduction in empty weight and an increase in payload capacity. These composite materials have been integrated into various parts of the fuselage, including the redesigned cargo doors and the new engine cowlings.
Last September the Fallschirmjägerregiment 31 of the Bundeswehr held a week-long exercise on and near the small airfield of Karlshöfen, which is north of Bremen. During one of the days, a Super Lynx of Marinefliegergeschwader 5 joined the action in order to exercise sling operations with the Super Lynx.
Purpose of the exercise on that particular day was to practice sling load operations between the army’s ground team and the navy’s helicopter crew. In order to do so, a Super Lynx traveled the short distance from Nordholz Naval Air Station to Karlshöfen airport.
After arrival at Karlshöfen, a short briefing was held with all participants and the underslung cable was attached to the cargo hook of the Super Lynx. Meanwhile, three pallets with “cargo” were positioned next to the runway.
When everything was prepared, the helicopter crew took off and flew towards the first pallet. Over there the helicopter descended to about 5 meters so that the static line reached the ground riggers. Before any further action could be taken, first the riggers had to pick the line with a hook. This hook was grounded into the earth in order to discharge static electricity from the helicopter. Once this was the case, the pallet was hooked onto the cable and the helicopter hoisted it into the air.
The helicopter then flew a circuit with the 400 kilo cargo attached. The cargo was then lowered onto the ground and after grounding the helicopter again, the soldiers could unhook the cargo from the sling. All this was done directly underneath the helicopter, with the strong downwash of the rotorblades blowing at you.
This exercise was repeated at all three pickuppoints for about an hour, after which it was time to take the sling cable abooard again and to proceed back to Nordholz.
Naturally this could only be done after the team from MFG 5 made a nice flyby at the airfield.
The video below gives an impression how close the helicopter came during the exercise
Located in the former Caproni area (next to the Volandia museum) at Milan Malpensa Airport and named after VQA pilot Dr Alberto Addeo, the 2° Reparto Volo Polizia di Stato was the second in order of opening of the eleven Reparto Volos (initially equipped with Agusta Bell 47J helicopters) that have been deployed throughout Italy since 1971 when the Servizio Area della Polizia was created.
The service was established on an “informal” level in 1956, when the Traffic Police Corps took over the coordination and planning of rescue operations during the wave of bad weather that hit central and southern Italy.
In 1959, the Milan Traffic Police experimented with the use of helicopters in coordination with ground patrols, an activity that, given the brilliant results, led the Corps Inspectorate to establish its own air service; on 9 October 1963, the Rome and Milan Traffic Police Departments established the first public safety helicopter divisions.
On 5 November 1963, the Milan Helicopter Department proposed to the General Directorate of Public Security that a white identification number be affixed to the roof of cars to facilitate identification from above; the proposal was accepted and subsequently taken as a model by the other police departments.
The establishment of the air service made it necessary to train specialised personnel at air force schools.
On 1 January 1971, a ministerial decree created the Air Service for Public Safety, to which was added the 1° Gruppo Volo at the Pratica di Mare military airfield.
On 20 July 1972 the Helicopter Section was inaugurated at Milan Malpensa, which was upgraded to a Gruppo Volo on 1 January 1973.
There are currently 11 Flight Departments in Italy with a staff of about 800, including pilots and specialists, 60 helicopters and 19 aircraft, which are hierarchically dependent on the 2nd Division of the Central Directorate of General Affairs of the State Police, Special Departments Service.
Tasks and Activities
Aerial surveillance makes it possible to locate and bypass potential sources of danger, as aircraft and helicopters are equipped with cameras (even two) connected to a control room that can mix the signals and transmit them to the relevant police headquarters.
Of fundamental importance is the interaction with:
– Polizia di Frontiera against smuggling/illegal immigration/terrorism;
– Polizia Stradale/Ferroviaria/Postale/Scientifica to ensure security in the area of competence.
There are also collaborations with:
– Sharpshooters and dog handlers (both units are located in the immediate vicinity of the Flight Department);
– Crime Prevention Units;
– UOPI (Operational Ready Intervention Units), recently created to combat terrorism;
– Air Force and Civil Defence, in search and rescue operations;
– Centro Nazionale Soccorso Alpino e Speleologico (CNSAS) (National Centre for Alpine and Speleological Rescue), with which the police have an agreement.
Aircraft in use with the 2° Reparto Volo Polizia di Stato
The AB.212 helicopter was produced by Agusta, under licence from Bell, with double turbine and rotor with two blades, in use by the Polizia di Stato since 1976, it can carry up to 15 people at a maximum speed of 240 Km/h, with a range of 2h and 40 minutes. Extremely versatile and able to fly at night, it has been used by the 2° Reparto Volo Polizia di Stato since 1997.
P.68 Obs II
The P.68 aircraft built by Partenavia VulcanAir has great versatility and manoeuvrability. It is particularly suitable for the control of highways and can carry up to 4 persons at a maximum speed of 270 km/h with a range of 4 hours. It has been used by the 2° Reparto Volo since 1987. With the 2° RV, the P.68 is also widely used for organ transports.
The newest type at the 2° Reparto Volo is the Leonardo UH-139 (AW139). The AW139 of the Italian police, called UH-139, includes a HD FLIR of the latest generation, a satellite communication system, a searchlight, a rescue hoist, a cabin console for missions and a HD video downlink.
The staff of the 2° Reparto Volo Polizia di Stato consists of highly qualified men, divided into pilots and specialists.
In order to enter the air service, personnel who meet the psycho-physical requirements must undergo highly selective training and
– obtain a helicopter pilot’s licence at the 72° Stormo of the Italian Air Force in Frosinone;
– obtain the fixed-wing pilot’s licence at the 70° Stormo of the Italian Air Force in Latina.
Since 2013, courses have also been held at the PS Training and Flight Standardisation Centre (CASV), located in Pratica di Mare, where pilots transfer to AB-206s or P-68s and can therefore be deployed as soon as they arrive at their destination department; currently this is only possible after attending the CASV courses.
Specialists obtain their qualification at the school for non-commissioned officers of the air force in Caserta.
The 2° Reparto Volo Polizia di Stato employs 60 people, divided into three departments:
– OASV Flight Operations consists, apart from the commander, of seventeen pilots, of which ten are helicopter pilots and seven are aircraft pilots.
– The “Fixed Flight Crew” (specialists) consists of twenty-five people who are not only part of the aircraft crews, but are also in charge of aircraft maintenance.
– General Affairs, consists of twenty-six officials in charge of bureaucratic tasks and infrastructure supervision.
On Sunday 14 November 2021 the new Pilatus PC-7 MXK trainer aircraft was reveiled. This is in fact a renewed version of the PC-7 Mk II trainer. We already saw it prior to the unveiling. Read more about it below.
In 1994, at the request of the South African Air Force, Pilatus devised a new variant of the popular trainers, the PC-7 MkII. The fuselage of a PC-9 was used and the wings (with suspension points) of the PC-7. The engine used was a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-25C delivering 700 hp (515 kW). This engine has been cut in power to reduce wear and tear and thus reduce maintenance costs. To have an idea, the PC-9 has a Pratt & Whitney engine of 1,149 hp (857 kW).
With a new glass cockpit, new avionics, improvements in the area of crew comfort and other technical innovations, the PC-7 MKX offers smart state-of-the-art training capability in the Basic Training segment at unrivalled cost, with outstanding robustness and unmatched reliability. The smart Basic Trainer is now available to take on a new generation of student pilots and turn them into first class military aviators.
A state-of-the-art cockpit with smart avionics is at the core of the brand-new PC-7 MKX. The cockpit is centred on a three-display philosophy utilising the next generation of high definition screens. It gives the student an easy entry into the world of modern avionics, while practising vital pilot skills using a proven airframe with benign and forgiving flying characteristics. The PC-7 MKX can be used to train the broadest possible range of aircrew, making it the ideal basic trainer for air forces around the world.
The PC-7 MKX’s smart avionics suite offers broad capability, allowing maximum flexibility for use in a wide variety of training missions. This ensures that the student can easily transition to these platforms when embarking on the next phase of training. The PC-7 MKX avionics capability is designed as a comprehensive baseline configuration with various add-on options such as synthetic vision system, traffic advisory system, autopilot, cockpit camera and mission debriefing system to meet specific training needs.
The cockpit features a large primary flight display and multi-function displays to give students the earliest possible exposure to the technology found in today’s front line assets. The primary flight display allows selection of various flight modes, whilst the left and right displays features a moving map for navigation, a Flight Management System and an Engine Indicating and Crew Alerting System.
A comprehensive set of training products is also available to cover all aspects of ground based training. From the simplest type of training aid, virtual reality tools through to a full flight simulator, all training equipment is of the highest quality and designed to support integrated, progressive learning. This allows the air force to optimise training time and reduce training cost per pilot.
The design of the PC-7 MKX uses conventional semi-monocoque construction for the wing, fuselage and empennage. The primary structure is built of aluminium alloy sheet and extrusion. Combined with precision workmanship, these features provide a high degree of interchangeability as well as easy replacement of parts. The PC-7 MKX is an exceptional trainer built on a solid certification foundation, guaranteed to deliver a lifecycle of at least 30 years.
On the 16th of June 2021 an exotic bird landed at Twente Airport after a long flight; this day saw the arrival of a Cathay Dragon Airbus 320 that will be dismantled over here.
Around 15.30 local time Airbus A.320-200 B-HSI (bearing callsign BHSI) made her final landing at Twente Airport after a 6 and a half hours flight from Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai. Al Maktoum was one of the stops used for refuelling and crew rest, as the aircraft was not able to travel the distance from Hong Kong at once. Therefore stops were made in Bangkok and Dubai.
This particular airframe with Manufacturer Serial Number (MSN) 930 was built by Airbus in Toulouse 22.7 years ago and made her test flights with registration F-WWIE. After that she was delivered to Dragonair in 1999 and flew in a configuration with 8 business class seats and and 156 economy seats.
In 2006, Dragonair was aquired by Cathay Pacific, its main (and only) competitor in Hong Kong. In 2016 it was announced that Dragonair would be renamed into Cathay Dragon, including a new livery that resembled that of Cathay Pacific. However, this particular airframe escaped that fate and still wore the Dragonair colours on her final flight.
Before repainting was possible, the world was struck by the COVID-19 pandemic and air travel collapsed. Because of this, B-HSI was withdrawn from use and as of August 2020 she was stored at Alice Springs in Australia, together with numerous other aircraft from various airlines.
After the decision was taken that B-HSI would be phased out, she was ferried to Twente Airport, where AELS will dismantle and reuse the various components of the airframe. The day after het arrival all markings referring to Dragonair were removed already.
Hospital Medisch Spectrum Twente (MST) operates as part of the Trauma Centre a heliport for handling Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) flights. In addition, ambulance flights and flights for the transportation of human organs are allowed to be carried out on this heliport. This heliport is the gateway to the Medisch Spectrum Twente when every second counts.
In the Twente region, MST is the only hospital with a heliport. The choice for MST was logical, on the one hand because the hospital is one of the eleven trauma centres in the Netherlands and on the other because of its central location in the east of the country and close to Germany. Some 90 per cent of the trauma helicopters that land at MST come from Germany. On average, the heliport receives about 120 helicopters per year.
Previously the heliport was located next to the hospital. At this location the iconic Bundeswehr UH-1D “Huey” helicopters from the SAR76 station in Rheine were a common sight. When the hospital was renovated, the heliport was relocated to the current location on top of the building. In this way an approach path free of obstacles was possible.
A trauma helicopter is deployed at the request of the emergency services after a serious accident. Often in traffic, but also, for example, after an incident in or around the house. In many cases, the helicopter flies in to get a specialised doctor to the accident site quickly. Patients or wounded are only transported by helicopter if they are stable, so sometimes a helicopter returns ’empty’ to the hospital to pick up only the medical staff.
The Netherlands has four so-called lifeliners, which are deployed in the north, south and west. Twente and the Achterhoek are mainly covered by the Christoph Europa 2 from Rheine, backed up by the Christoph Westfalen from Münster and the Christoph 8 from Lünen.
The majority of the patients that are transferred to the Medisch Spectrum Twente by helicopter originate from incidents in the Twente region and the neighbouring area in Germany. Most of the time this is done with the Christoph Europa 2, an EC.135 of ADAC Luftrettung based in Rheine. This type of helicopter weighs about 3000 kilos, can carry 4 seated persons (including the pilot) and 1 patient on a stretcher. This mini hospital can fly at a maximum speed of 260 km/h. After arriving at the helideck, the patinet can quickly be transferred to the emergency room to receive the treatment needed.
If something happens somewhere, the pilot and doctor together decide where to fly to. The pilot knows what distance can be flown, the doctor knows where the patient in question can receive the best care. It is noticed that more and more people are transferred to Enschede.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, helicopters were also used to transfer patients from one hospital to another. In the Netherlands the Lifeliner 5 was pressed into service (see more in this article) and visited Enschede several times as well.
Christoph Europa 2
The air rescue centre in Rheine has existed since 1982. Initially operated by the German Armed Forces with a Bell UH-1D SAR helicopter under the designation SAR 76, ADAC Luftrettung took over the station in 1998. Because of its proximity to the Dutch border, the “yellow angel” was given the call sign “Christoph Europa 2”. It is the second rescue helicopter to be given the name “Europa”. It is meant to make clear that helicopters in border areas do not stop at national borders and also care for patients in neighbouring countries.
The Mobile Medical Team (MMT) has Airbus helicopters at its disposal. The EC-135 (H135) from Airbus is used as a trauma helicopter, also called Lifeliner. The helicopter is mainly used when the doctor and the nurse of the MMT must be at the scene as soon as possible. A trauma doctor can perform certain actions and interventions that an ambulance nurse is not allowed to do. Life-saving activities can therefore already be started outside the hospital. The heli-MMT is usually deployed in case of serious accidents where quick start of medical treatment is important.
As of the 24th of March 2020 the fifth Mobile Medical Team (MMT) took to the air with an additional trauma helicopter to quickly transport intensive care patients. This helicopter was deployable throughout the Netherlands. In view of the growth in the number of patients infected with the coronavirus, it has been decided to use this helicopter in addition to the existing MMT service to get patients to the right hospital even faster and thus relieve the burden on road transport. The helicopter (type H145) was made available by the ANWB Medical Air Assistance (MAA) and has been fully equipped by Radboudumc for the transport of intensive care patients.
Besides the obvious subjects, the heliport every now and then also receives visitors that are not so often seen in the Twente region. Below are some examples.
In March 2013 the area around the former Twenthe Airbase was the scene of a large exercise called Cerberus Guard where airmobile forces had the objective to capture the airfield. This article is a throwback to the exercise.
After capturing the airfield, an operating base was established from where the forward bases in Losser and Oldenzaal were supported. From these bases several actions took place, ammongst others in the FC Twente Stadium.
But first during Exercise Cerberus Guard Twenthe airfield had to be captured. The night before, already some pathfinders were dropped close to the airfield. Then on Wednesday 20 March troops of 11 Airmobile Brigade were transported by Cougars and Chinooks of the Defense Helicopter Command to capture the airfield.
Troops were dropped close to the runway and fought their way towards the control tower, where the “enemy” occupied several buildings. The goal was to clear this area and to establish control of the airfield.
After access to the airfield was secured, the Pathfinders took control of the runway, so that they could guide Hercules aircraft to the airfield. These aircraft would fly daily replenishment missions from Eindhoven Airbase to Twenthe, in order to supply the troops with all things they required for their mission. This ranged from food to ammunition.
This also proved to be a valuable training for the Hercules crew, as being able to perform tactical operations in the Netherlands is quite rare.
In August 2020 a truly unique exercise took place in Germany: Exercise Blue Wings 2020. This exercise marked the first time that aircraft from the German Luftwaffe and Israeli Air Force (IAF) operated jointly in German skies.
After the Luftwaffe had already taken part twice in Exercise Blue Flag, which took place at IAFs Ovda airbase, it was now time to return the honour. On the 17th of August, a detachment of 180 men and women from several IAF units started the exercise at Nörvenich Air Base, just south of Cologne. Nörvenich is the home of Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 31 “Boelcke”, flying the Eurofighter.
The first week of the exercise primarily consisted of getting to know the airspace in preparation for the “MAG (Multinational Air Group) Days” exercise – an international event that takes place four times a year.
On Tuesday the 18th of August, a mixed formation of German and Israeli aircraft perfromed a fly-by over the sites of Dachau Concentration Camp, in memory of the Holocaust victims, and Fürstenfeldbrück Air Base, in memory of 11 Israeli Olympic delegation members that were murdered in the 1972 Olympics terrorist attack.
As part of the exercise, six “Barak” (F-16C/D) fighter jets, two “Re’em” (Boeing 707) aircraft, a “Nachshon-Eitam” (Gulfstream G-550) and a “Nachshon-Shavit” (Gulfstream G-V) aircraft landed at the Nörvenich Air Base. The Baraks were flown by members of 101 and 105 Squadrons, both based at Hatzor. The Re’ems were operated by 120 Squadron (nicknamed Giants), normally based at Nevatim. The two Nachshons were both flown by 122 Squadron, also based at Nevatim.
101 Squadron of the Israeli Air Force, also known as the First Fighter Squadron, is Israel’s first fighter squadron, formed on May 20, 1948, six days after Israel declared its independence. Initially flying the Avia S-199, it has since operated the Supermarine Spitfire, North American Mustang, Dassault Mystere IV, Dassault Mirage IIICJ, IAI Nesher and IAI Kfir. It currently operates out of Hatzor Airbase, flying the F-16C Fighting Falcon.
The 105 Squadron of the Israeli Air Force, also known as The Scorpion, was founded in December 1950 as a Spitfire squadron and has since operated the P-51 Mustang, Dassault Super Mystere, IAI Sa’ar, and F-4 Phantom II. It currently operates F-16Ds at Hatzor Airbase.
The 120 Squadron of the Israeli Air Force, also known as the Desert Giants (former International Squadron), is a Boeing 707 Phalcon and KC-707 Re’em squadron based at Nevatim Airbase. Eventually the KC-707s will be replaced with newly ordered KC-46s.
The 122 Squadron of the Israeli Air Force, also known as the Nahshon Squadron (former Dakota Squadron), is a G550 squadron based at Nevatim Airbase. The Squadron has five G550 (G550 “Nachshon-Eitam” and G-V (“Nachshon-Shavit”) with two aircraft are used for Airborne early warning and control (CAEW or Conformal Airborne Early Warning, IAI EL/W-2085) and three are used for Signals intelligence (SEMA or Special Electronic Missions Aircraft).
TLG 31 “Boelcke”
The Tactical Air Force Wing 31 “Boelcke” is one of four Eurofighter squadrons. With the fighter jet, the squadron makes its contribution to alliance and national defense. This mission includes ensuring air combat capability and establishing the Eurofighter’s air-to-ground capability for the Air Force. The squadron develops procedures and training principles for pilots and technicians for all German Eurofighter associations in order to establish the air-to-ground capability of the fighter jet.
In August 2020 some work needed to be done in the depots of the Dutch Nationaal Militair Museum. Because of this, several sleeping beauties (otherwise not visible to the public) were parked outside in the morning sun on the platform of the former Soesterberg Airbase.
The National Military Museum is situated on the former air base at Soesterberg. It combines the collections of the former Military Aviation Museum in Soesterberg and Army Museum in Delft. There are numerous pieces on display, including tanks, planes, armoured vehicles and helicopters.
Considering the fact that a heatwave was taking place, as well as that we were in the middle of school holidays, the choice was made to visit the site in the early morning.
At 7.30 in the morning the August summer sun provides a beautiful low light, which emphasizes the beautiful lines and pristine conditions of these aircraft. Some are so well preserved that you could almost fire them up and fly away.
These aircraft were all moved back inside once the maintenance work in the depot was finished. When will we see them aiagin? Hopefully very soon….
Do you want to know more about the NMM and the former Soesterberg Airbase? Then visit the WEBSITE of the NMM.
Because of ongoing cost reductions, Lufthansa has decided to put 6 Boeing 747-430s in long term storage at Twente Airport. In order to facililtate this, several dedicated aircraft parking platforms have been created next to the main platform.
The third Lufthansa 747 to arrive was D-ABTK, which is 18.5 years old. It was initially withdrawn from use at Frankfurt in March 2020. After some rescheduling, it was then ferried to Twente on the 29th of June.
Upon arrival, D-ABTK was initially parked at the former Runway 11 platform. Later that week she was moved to the newly created parkingspots.