A record-breaking aerial rescue on Nepalâ€™s Mount Annapurna has underscored the performance capabilities of Eurocopterâ€™s AS350 Ecureuil helicopter in extreme conditions â€“ including the most challenging high-altitude operations.
Three Spanish mountain climbers were successfully airlifted by the Fishtail Air AS350 B3 from a 6,900 meter-high location using the â€œlonglineâ€ technique, in which a rescuer is suspended at the end of a long rope for insertions/extractions from difficult terrain.
The April 29 operation was part of special rescue flights being performed in a cooperative effort involving Fishtail Air, a charter helicopter company based at Kathmandu, Nepal, and Switzerlandâ€™s Air Zermatt.
This mission utilized Fishtail Airâ€™s second AS350 B3, which arrived in Nepal on March 1 to join a helicopter fleet that includes an AS350 B and one AS350 B2, along with the companyâ€™s first AS350 B3.
Air Zermattâ€™s Capt. Daniel Aufdenblatten performed the rescue, while Swiss Mountain Guide Richard Lenner was deployed as a human sling to lift the stranded climbers on the longline â€“ evacuating them one-by-one to a base camp at an altitude of 4,000 meters. The climbers had been stranded 36 hours on Mount Annapurna.
In addition to this difficult operation, Fishtail Airâ€™s newest AS350 B3 also rescued four Korean climbers and three Nepalese Sherpas on April 26 from Nepalâ€™s Mount Manaslu, extracting them at an altitude of approximately 6,500 meters. Piloting the helicopter was Fishtail Capt. Sabin Basnyat, who was joined by Air Zermattâ€™s Daniel Aufdenblatten and Richi Lehner. Mount Manaslu is the worldâ€™s eighth highest mountain, while Mount Annapurna is the tenth highest.
â€œThese rescues are tributes to the crewsâ€™ professionalism, as well as the capability of our AS350 Ecureuil and the AS550 Fennec military version to deliver performance and reliability in the most extreme conditions,â€ said Eurocopter Group President and CEO Lutz Bertling.
Established in 1992, the Franco-German-Spanish Eurocopter Group is a division of EADS, a world leader in aerospace, defense and related services. The Eurocopter Group employs approximately 15,600 people. In 2009, Eurocopter confirmed its position as the worldâ€™s No. 1 helicopter manufacturer in the civil and parapublic market, with a turnover of 4.6 billion euros, orders for 344 new helicopters, and a 52 percent market share in the civil and parapublic sectors. Overall, the Groupâ€™s products account for 30 percent of the total world helicopter fleet. Its strong worldwide presence is ensured by its 18 subsidiaries on five continents, along with an extensive network of distributors, certified agents and maintenance centers. More than 10,500 Eurocopter helicopters currently are in service with over 2,800 customers in more than 140 countries. Eurocopter offers the largest civil and military helicopter range in the world.
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