On 1 September 2020, the first six helicopters delivered by Leonardo to Norway became operational from the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) base in Sola by the RNoAF RHT (Helicopter Search and Rescue Services). In the first month of service, the SAR Queen aircraft undertook missions in challenging weather conditions and inhospitable environments, flying for around 80 hours. Many of the missions were SAR operations such as mountain rescue by night and emergency transportation. Now the RNoAF RHT has accrued over 200,000 flying hours combined across its Sea King and AW101 platforms throughout Norway.
“Leonardo is integrated into the Air Force’s operations and that’s a key element in what we call the turnkey solution. Leonardo provides extensive support through our fully integrated teams at the Sola base. We also support at the operating bases, through our maintainers, Material Officers and Technical Officers,” commented Thor Gunnar Johansen, Key Account Manager for Leonardo Helicopters.
He continued, “We are united with the Air Force on their main objective, which is public service. We are saving lives. That’s what we are doing, which is so meaningful.”
At JAAMO (Joint Aircraft Availability and Management Office) in Sola, there are 13 people comprising Leonardo and Air Force staff. Collectively, the accrued aviation experience of the team is 300-plus years.
Maintenance is a key aspect of the support Leonardo provides to the Air Force crews. John Martin, Maintenance Manager on the Norwegian All-Weather Search and Rescue programme for Leonardo Helicopters, explained further: “Base maintenance is conducted purely by Leonardo maintenance personnel. This allows the Air Force personnel to focus on the line maintenance activities.”
Through line maintenance support, Leonardo helps the Air Force with the overall availability of the aircraft through scheduled and non-scheduled maintenance activities up to and including 600 hour servicing.
The Air Force pilots utilising the AW101 All-Weather Search and Rescue helicopters on their missions have generally gone through conversion to type training to enable them to fly the SAR Queen. This training has been conducted in Stavanger, Norway in close proximity to the Air Force base in Sola at Leonardo’s Norwegian Training Centre (NTC).
The NTC houses a Full Flight Simulator (FFS) Level D, which is for pilot training but it also supports flight engineer training. Also available at the facility is the Systems Operator Console Simulator (SOCS). The FFS and the SOCS can be linked to provide comprehensive and holistic training to the full crew.
Seb Brunsden-Brown, the NTC Chief Instructor, said: “At the NTC, our role is to convert the pilots from the Sea King to the Leonardo AW101-612 from a synthetic training point of view. What we deliver is the initial conversion to type in the simulator, then when the pilots go to their instructors they can utilise the systems operationally.”
In 2021, the NTC achieved over 99% reliability, and customer satisfaction has reached 99% feedback from a host of international customers. The remaining bases to open across Norway include: Bodø, Florø, and Rygge. The final base will be operational in 2023/2024.