23-Jan-2015 Source: HeliHub.com
Danish operator Uni-Fly has recently started a new wind farm support contract using a Danish registered Airbus EC135. This is the second wind farm support helicopter based in the UK, and sees a hoist-fitted aircraft based at Humberside Airport. The customer is Danish company Dong Energy, and this is the first time they have contracted for aerial support – primarily for unplanned maintenance when it’s not feasible to get a vessel out in the field due to weather. The EC135 will support the Westermost Rough offshore wind farm, and is the first aerial support for that region of the North Sea. Lots of firsts!
The helicopter is a brand new aircraft from the production line in late November 2014 – serial 1173 and registered OY-HJG
Uni-Fly has pioneered helicopter support of offshore wind farms as far back as 2002, operating an EC135 from Esbjerg Airport to Horns Rev I offshore wind farm. This contract was renewed by energy company Vattenfall in 2007 and again for 3-5 years in mid 2014. Vattenfall could extend this contract to include the Dan Tysk wind farm located in Germany’s part of North Sea. Uni-Fly’s website indicates that the drop-off platform on wind turbines are approximately 80m above sea level and the operation can take place in wind speeds up to 22 m/sec. An article on Airbus Helicopters website cites Niels Peter Kjeldahl, Flight Operations Manager at Uni-Fly, saying “we use the wind to our advantage. Our normal limitation is 45 knots, but we have lowered people onto turbines with gusts of up to 60 knots. The advantage of the North Sea is that the wind flow is always laminar”. The EC135 is flown on sectors of up to 70 nautical miles.
Humberside Airport is currently building a new hangar for two helicopters to support wind farm operations, thanks in part to a Regional Growth Fund grant supported by North Lincolnshire Council. It is expected that Uni-Fly’s EC135 will be based in it from April 2015, and is being hangared with CHC in the interim. The airport has a long-term rolling agreement with Uni-Fly, but is also very positive about the outlook for expansion of this type of operation. The expected increase in the number of wind turbines off this part of the British coastline could bring as many as four more helicopters to the Airport in the next five years to support wind farms, according to Commercial Director Paul Litten.
The UK’s first wind farm support helicopter is flown by Bond Air Services from a dedicated facility at Lowestoft Harbour, supporting the Greater Gabbard offshore Wind Farm off the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts in the southern end of the North Sea.
Jeremy Parkin – HeliHub.com
Photo above (c) 2015 Graeme Lovell. Below courtesy of Humberside Airport