Rescue chopper faces overhaul

By Roger Moroney

The Hawke's Bay Lowe Corporation's main rescue helicopter is not set to return to the air for another two months as it undergoes a major mechanical overhaul.

The twin-engined BK117 helicopter received rotor damage after it was struck by a freak gust of wind at the Wellington Hospital landing pad on April 4.

It was being prepared for take-off after a patient delivery flight when the main rotor was caught and twisted by the strong gust - striking the bodywork and coming to a sudden stop.

The rescue trust's general manager Ian Wilmont said the nature of the damage, while in motion the rotor had come to a sudden stop, meant a raft of extensive maintenance and safety checks had to be carried out.

"It is a complex piece of machinery and it is a case of absolute safety first.

"It is undergoing a major overhaul - we are expecting to have it back in the air in mid to late July."

The engines had been removed and sent off to individual aviation specialists, as had the gearbox and other components.

Engineers would check for any stress damage or cracks.

"It is a major inspection. It's not that we are expecting to find anything but with the job it is called upon to do we have to be one hundred and ten per cent sure all is well."

The service's old Squirrel helicopter, which had been replaced by the more powerful BK117 three years ago, has been put back on the front-line while the work is being carried out.

"We are lucky to have it as a back-up." The Squirrel has limitations which had led to the purchase of the larger helicopter. "It is doing the job for us."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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