7-Feb-2011 Source: HeliHub.com
FB Heliservices are well known in the UK as the lead supplier of MRCOA (Military Registered Civil Owned Aircraft), specifically including the Squirrel and Griffon fleets. They also operate some of these aircraft on contract to other overseas governments, and readers may recall one of their AW139s resplendent in black/yellow colours on the AgustaWestland exhibitor terrace at Helitech in 2009. That was one of two aircraft contracted to the Algerian military for SAR training.
Very recently a FB have added a third AW139 to their fleet, this time contracted to Trinidad & Tobago. This Caribbean nation signed a deal in mid 2009 to purchase four AW139s, and an Air Guard was reported to be establishing a dedicated unit to use these helicopters for search and rescue, surface surveillance, law enforcement, drug interdiction and disaster relief operations.
The contract included an extensive training and logistical support service for the first five years, and together with the aircraft, was valued at US$348 million. A consortium involving AgustaWestland, Bristow Caribbean, FB Heliservices of UK and Helidecks Training Solutions of UK has been established to manage the AW139 programme in Trinidad and Tobago with training services to be supplied in Italy, the UK and the USA. Operations will primarily take place from Piarco International Airport and from offshore patrol vessels, working in conjunction with the Coast Guard. This order marks the establishment of the first SAR helicopter unit in the country.
HeliHub.com has been aware of this particular aircraft since September last year, flying in the same black/yellow scheme as the earlier examples (photo above). Unusally for a European-operated AW139, this one was produced on the Philadelphia production line. We have been aware that the military serial ZR283 has been allocated for it, and it very briefly spent some time on the G- civil register in January 2011 as G-FBHA – a requirement for all MRCOA aircraft.
HeliHub.com believes the above detailed report to be fully true, but we note that despite waiting for an official statement from FBH on this operation for some time, our chasing has been thus far without success.