Photo Report – Eins, Zwei, Polizei #2

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted

While I’d assumed we’d checked the German Bundespolizei off the list of potential future visitors after their last hop over, I was more than pleasantly surprised to the other day to stumble across another of their machines at the field – a hot find coming right on the heels of the US helicopter fleet that had stationed with us for a few days (welcome to Lučko International 😀 ). Sporting the service’s classy and elegant navy blue scheme, the machine in question is a nowadays rather rare EC-155B-1 medium-lift helicopter, a type completely alien to Croatia – and only the second one I’d ever seen in person…

With its elegant, flowing lines, the EC-155 definitely stands as one of the most handsome helicopters ever made, right alongside the stunning Agusta A.109. It’s lines here slightly spoiled by all its external gear – including TV and FLIR cameras, and winches – D-HLTL is mostly used for surveillance and patrol work

Seemingly a relatively new type at first glance – having been introduced in 1997 – the EC-155 had actually started out in life as the twin-engine Aérospatiale SA.365/AS.365 Dauphin 2* of 1975, itself evolved from the earlier (and stubbier) SA.360/AS.360 Dauphin* single-engine light utility model.

* like many French helicopter designs, both of these machines had gone through several designation changes throughout their lifetimes, a reflection on their constantly changing manufacturers. A holdover from the 60s, the SA prefix stands for the initials of Sud Aviation – the first large scale helicopter manufacturer in France – which had in 1970 merged with Nord Aviation (formerly SNCAN) to form what we know today as Aérospatiale. Taking its time, the new company had introduced the “proper” AS prefix only in 1990, just two years before the company would transform into Eurocopter. The new prefix had however survived the change, and would remain in use even today on older models that had remained in production

In essence occupying a niche below the heavier Puma transport, the EC-155 is not however a direct copy of the Dauphin, which is still in production as the Eurocopter AS.365N3+. Using (most of) the Dauphin as a base, the 155 had introduced a wider and more commodious fuselage, new digital avionics with many bells and whistles – and, most importantly, a completely new composite main rotor and more powerful engines for significantly improved performance in hot-and-high conditions (which also give a slight increase in maximum take off weight).

A design element that has however survived all designation and equipment changes is the type’s eye-catching Fenestron rotor, a trademark feature of many French light and medium helicopters. Literally translated as “small window”, this concept – pioneered by Sud Aviation – replaces the traditional tail rotor’s few large blades with up to 18 smaller ones, shrouded within the tail assembly itself. While this solution does add a fair bit of weight due to the structural reinforcements needed – and tends to shift the CG backwards, decreasing stability – it does allow the individual blades to be lighter and more durable, as well as be able to withstand significantly higher forces and stress. Among other benefits, this includes sharper, quicker and more controlled yawing, which adds quite a bit to the helicopter’s maneuverability.

On some machines – notably military Gazelles – made out of titanium, the Fenestron’s high mass flow can make for some impressive handling (as the Gazelle itself demonstrates). Being smaller, the blades are also noticeably quieter and produce less vibration – but, due to their higher drag, tend to require more power to run and sap more energy from the main rotor during an engine-out autorotation

A competent machine all-round, D-HLTL was in town on a demonstration visit, flying mostly at night to show off its advanced on-board imaging equipment :). Rumor on the apron is that the Croatian Police is likely to buy a few examples – supported by the EU and it accession funds – to supplement is aging (and comparatively under-equipped) Bell fleet… so we may yet see more of them quite soon :).

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Photo Report – Eins, Zwei, Polizei!

By me
All photos me too (copyrighted)

While foreign aircraft at my base airfield of Lučko are not really uncommon – and usually take the form of various skydive aircraft from neighboring countries – 2012 has seen something of a spike in the number of “higher ranking” and government rotary visitors :). Following closely on the heels of the US Navy MH-60 Knighthawk seen here earlier, a couple of months ago we’d been visited by a German Super Puma, in town for a week during an international rescue exercise.

Quite an eye-catching and striking machine, parked – appropriately – in front of the Croatian Police hangar, home to its four strong Bell fleet

Operated by the Bundespolizei – Germany’s Federal Police – D-HEGM was tasked with providing aerial support during the IPA-CRO FLOODS 2012 international civil defense exercise, held in May on several artificial lakes close to the airfield. Interestingly, back in March 2011 – when it was just a year old – this helicopter had suffered a double engine flameout while transporting German chancellor Angela Merkel. The cause was determined to be intake icing, necessitating a – thankfully safe – forced landing :).

Quite a purposeful looking machine, the Puma is still one of Western Europe’s most popular helicopters – despite its 47 years of age. Like its Soviet counterpart, the legendary Mi-8, the Puma has outlived many of its intended replacements, and has over the years evolved into several versions, including the Cougar military transport and EC-725 Caracal gunship
Packing her up after the last flight of the day as ominous storm clouds roll in from the west. Cursed with unstable weather all week, the crew had had to curtail several flights when the winds and rain turned for the worst