AgustaWestland has recently shipped the first of two VIP AW101s to the Nigerian Air Force. The manufacturer flew the helicopter from its Yeovil factory in the UK to London Stansted Airport, where technicians dismantled the aircraft and stored it in a hangar ready for the flight. On a similar assignment in 2013, inclement weather conditions had led to the AN-124 being positioned partially inside the Diamond Hangar in order to protect the helicopter during loading; the same procedure was adopted for this latest movement.
The helicopter was transported from Stansted to Africa on a custom-built cradle specially-designed to enable the aircraft to fit into the AN-124. With an overall height of 4.38m, the helicopter on its transit chassis was a tight fit through the aircraft’s nose door, with only centimetres to spare. With the additional support equipment and spares, the entire load weighed a total of 60,000 kilos. The support equipment, which was provided by AgustaWestland, was subsequently returned to the UK by Ruslan International on another of its fleet. Ruslan is a joint-venture company that manages and markets the 17 AN-124 freighters belonging to its owners, Antonov Airlines and Volga Dnepr Airlines, and they partnered with leading German charter broker Karpeles Flight Services (part of DB Schenker) on this shipment.
Nigeria has bought two AW101 helicopters for their VIP flight, and this is believed to be the first one, which carries the Nigerian Air Force code of 280 and AW serial number 50251. Both were originally part of the Indian order for 12.
Jeremy Parkin – HeliHub.com
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