US Customs & Border Protection puts MD600 fleet into desert storage

US Customs & Border Protection puts MD600 fleet into desert storage 29 Oct, 10, Source: HeliHub.com

After investigating a number of leads, HeliHub.com can report that the US Customs & Border Protection “CBP”, part of the Dept of Homeland Security, have put their entire MD600 fleet into desert storage. They are located at AMARC – the Aerospace Maintenance And Regeneration Center facility managed by the US Air Force Material Command located in the town of Tucson, Arizona, USA.

In 1997, CBP originally ordered 45 MD600s, but ended up taking just 11, and these were issued FAA registrations N602BP through N611BP, plus N613BP. Nine of these remain on the FAA register – N609BP and N610BP having been cancelled thus far, and we can infer that these have been damaged as there would be no other logical reason for removing such young airframes. HeliHub.com has seen photos of the fleet at AMARC, and inventory records obtained from there confirm that ten of the fleet of eleven are present. The first two airframes – N610BP and N608BP – arrived in Tucson on 5th and 6th May 2010 respectively, with the remaining eight following on 3rd August. They have now all had the usual AMARC treatment to inhibit the airframe in case it needs to be resurrected for future use, and all transparencies covered in silver foil to minimise the effect in the cabin of the dry desert heat.

We believe at lease five of the eleven have been damaged in accidents, which occurred as follows

– N606BP – damaged 21-Feb-01 San Diego, CA (NTSB report)
– N608BP – damaged 19-Feb-09 San Onofre, CA (NTSB report)
– N609BP – registration cancelled February 2008 (FAA register) – due to accident?
– N610BP – registration cancelled February 2009 (FAA register) – due to accident?
– N613BP – damaged 12-Oct-09 El Cajon/Gillespie Field, CA (NTSB report)

PoliceHelicopterPilot.com carried an article late 2009 on the accident to N613BP in which they focused on the MD600 during auto-rotation, inferring that the CBP was unhappy with the performance of the MD600 in this phase of flight, and that they had turned to MD Helicopters for advice. The NTSB report quotes tne accident in October 2009 as having an MD factory pilot on board as well as the CBP “standardization pilot” – and the website states that the helicopter was being filmed from the ground accident was being film due to the CBP concern. Ironic!

HeliHub.com believes that this accident precipitated the CBP decision to withdraw the MD600 from service and put the available aircraft into desert storage.

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