After flying a helicopter type for 51 years, and having operated a total of 43 aircraft, it would appear surprising that an air force has made the decision to ground a helicopter type on safety grounds rather than retire it from service.
The New Straits Times reported last week that the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) have recently done just that with their fleet of Sikorsky S61s – known locally as the “Nuri”. Spares availability and the cost of maintenance were also contributory factors.
More interestingly, the report said that RMAF chief General Datuk Seri Ackbal Abdul Samad (pictured) announced that the RMAF are seeking to lease eight utility helicopters as a short-term, stop-gap solution to replace the S61 fleet until a full tender can be set up, bid for and new helicopters delivered.
Assuming the procurement process went smoothly, the leased aircraft would likely be needed for 3-4 years, and the requirement is for “medium-lift utility helicopters” to oversee the operational security needs in the South China Sea and East Malaysia.
This is an early announcement for Ackbal, who was named on 3rd January 2020 as the 19th Air Force chief, replacing General Tan Sri Affendi Buang, who had become the new Armed Forces chief the previous day.
No information was given as to what type of helicopters were being sought, but we believe the ready availability of parked Airbus H225s would be high on the list. Malaysia is one of the few countries where commercial operators are actively flying the type on offshore oil and gas support work, and the RMAF already has a fleet of twelve H225Ms.
The HeliHub.com fleet database shows that there are still at least seventy H225s sitting idle around the world, including some sold, but yet to be converted and delivered to the Ukraine military. There will be operators and leasing companies underbidding each other to offload their aircraft, even on a three or four year lease basis just to see some income from their devalued assets.
Jeremy Parkin – HeliHub.com
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