22-Nov-2010 Source: HeliHub.com
At the Dutch Police fleet of Bo105 helicopters and BN-2 fixed wing grew older, so they started looking at replacing them with a single newer and more capable type. After a tendering process, they selected the MD Explorer, placing an order for eight in early 2001, with MD using the annual Heli-Expo convention to announce this landmark order. As part of this contract, two manufacturer-owned aircraft were loaned for type familiarisation. The two loaner aircraft were N9201U (00042) and N9213Q (serial 00041), which arrived at the police base on Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport in January and May 2002 respectively.
As time passed by, it became ever clearer that MD Helicopters were unable to meet the requirements they contracted to provide, specifically the weight of the MD Explorer. Eventually this situation reached an impasse in 2005 after MD were unable to meet the stringent specification in the agreed timescale. One of the two loan aircraft were returned immediately – N9213Q leaving in early 2005.
The Dutch Police re-visited their requirements and decided to re-issue the tenders in April 2006 with a revised requirement of six light twin helicopters and two medium twins. In late 2007, they decided on the purchase of six EC135P2+ from Eurocopter (see their press release dated 03-Dec-07), and two AW139s from AgustaWestland (their release dated 20-Dec-07). The 135s were delivered between July and October 2009, and both 139s followed before the end of that year.
So far, so good. Looks like the Dutch Police have got it all sorted now, but no! Well placed industry sources have confirmed to HeliHub.com in recent days that the second loan Explorer, registered N9201U, is indeed still in the hangar at Amsterdam due to an ongoing dispute with MD over payments due on contract termination. A past MD employee familiar with the situation has even suggested to us that this aircraft will never fly again.
The irony of it all is that in autumn 2001, the subject helicopter was mid-way through a record-breaking round-the-world flight when it was grounded in Siberia after US airspace was closed in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11th. It was only a handful of months afterwards that it moved to its next, and possibly final, base in Netherlands.
MD was given until 1 April 2005 by the Dutch Police to achieve certification to the needed weight of 6,770 pounds, 550 pounds above certified weight – improvements to the anti-torque system were made and test flights verified the max weight of 6,770 pounds in February of 2005. The FAA was then scheduled to fly the remaining events required for official certification, and all were flown and accepted by the end of February with the exception of the limiting Hv data. The requirement for this demonstration was 3000 Hd and calm wind, not to exceed 3 knots. The team went to potential sites all through the month of March and the weather never cooperated. Despite the deadline passing, those involved (Paul Studer- program manager, Ramon Moro â€“ Flight Test and Systems Engineer, Jim Fowler â€“ Chief Pilot and Test Pilot, and Mark Friskel – Test Pilot) petitioned MD’s then CEO Henk Schaeken to finish the certification. The program was allowed to finish and on 6 April 2005 we achieved certification of the MD902 up to 6770 pounds up to 3000 Hd, the targets of the Dutch Police, albeit 6 days late.
Notes: Hv is the Height Velocity for safe altitudes after engine failure and Hd is Density Altitude. The 3000â€™ density altitude was chosen because it would cover the flight envelope needed by the Dutch Police.
HeliHub.com further note:- We do not see any reference on the MD Helicopters website to 6,770lb auw being available today – the Technical Description document for the MD Explorer mentions nothing above 6,500lb.
[Photo credit: Kristof Vandermoere]