Heli Transair student pilots on an important mission
Three young pilots went on a special operation across Europe. The assignment: three helicopters of the type AS350 from our co-operating partner Helicopter Travel Munich GmbH (HTM) had to be transferred from the Ottobrunn Airport to Porto in Portugal.
Expressed in numbers, this means an overall flight route of 1800 km/970 NM, a flight duration of almost 9 hours spread over two days.
They owe this mission to Heli Transair’s Flight Operations Manager, Michael Meier. His excellent contacts to Munich provided the three student pilots with this unique opportunity to gain valuable experience. A “real flight assignment” for such a long distance is not an everyday event even for professional pilots. Now, instead of flying traffic circuits at the Egelsbach Airport, the three travel to Munich and are welcomed by HTM colleagues who brief them on the technology of the AS 350 helicopter. Instead of a piston engine, this helicopter is driven by a turbine. A new experience as student pilots are normally trained on helicopters with piston engines. At Heli Transair, they are trained on a fleet of state-of-the-art helicopters of the type Guimbal Cabri G2.
After the briefing, each of the three student pilots is assigned to one colleague, and then it is “ready for take-off” for the three helicopters. Flying in formation, the first stage leads from Ottobrunn past Lake Constance, Lake Zurich, the town Montreux and the Lac Leman to the Annemasse Airport in France. Everyone involved delightfully enjoys viewing this magnificent landscape. Refuelling and a deep breath after approximately 02:10 and 250 NM on a new helicopter and unfamiliar terrain. No problem for Heli Transair student pilots!
The second stage leads the formation from Annemasse to Agen-La Garenne. After take-off, the routing leads the group past the last alpine foothills across a flat Mediterranean area. The temperature rises and the sun finally breaks through the clouds, making flying more relaxed. As announced during the briefing, the route includes passing over some “Restricted Areas”. Agen-La Garenne Airport is reached after an additional 2:25 and 270 NM.
After a short stop, the next leg to Bilbao is discussed. Everyone is enthusiastic about the flight along the northern coast of Spain, a view which is considered as the most scenic part of the trip. When flying through the control area of the San Sebastian Airport, all three helicopters must fly a holding pattern, by no means a routine process for helicopter pilots. After 01:30 and 165 NM, the stopover destination of Bilbao is reached. The group overnights here and the helicopters are carefully prepared for the night. The evening is used for a side trip to the old town of Bilbao, and there is a lot of laughter since everyone gets along well. The good food is enjoyed, the impressions reviewed and everyone looks forward to the next day.
Next morning, the pre-flight check and briefing for the last leg to Porto are routinely carried out. Everyone is excited about the day and climbs full of anticipation into the by now quite familiar helicopter model. After take-off, a new landscape can be seen as the flight goes over the barren Spanish mainland. After crossing the border of Portugal, wide open fields quickly disappear and give way to a dense vegetation of bushes. It quickly becomes clear why the three helicopters are urgently needed here. One spark, and vast areas are on fire - and indeed, the group witnesses a firefighting operation shortly before landing.
The landing in Porto goes smoothly after 2:40 and 285 NM. The helicopters are thoroughly checked followed by an extensive debriefing session. The six pilots subsequently explore Porto and enjoy the good food. The group then separates and the student pilots enjoy yet another free day in Porto. The professional pilots are however needed at home and have a scheduled flight back to Munich next morning.
A successful mission ends with the idea of having experienced a lot, collecting valuable expertise and contributing to forest fire-fighting in Portugal.
Thank you, Helicopter Travel Munich GmbH and thank you, Michael Meier!