7-Jun-2022 Source: DRF Luftrettung
Northern Helicopter GmbH will fly in the Arctic and Antarctic in the future. From June 2022, the shipping company F.Laeisz GmbH, Rostock, will entrust the Emden offshore aviation company with the operation of the helicopters for the research vessel “Polarstern” chartered to the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research (AWI). . For the expeditions to arctic and antarctic regions, NHC Northern Helicopter provides the flight crew and ensures the airworthiness of the machines. For the maintenance and technical operation of the aircraft during the expedition, NHC Northern Helicopter commissions the maintenance company of its shareholder, DRF Stiftung Luftrettung Gemeinutlich AG in Rheinmünster. The contract begins in June 2022 and runs for three years with an option to extend for a further two years.
“The assignment is a great recognition of our high-quality and committed work in recent years. Entry into the ‘research aviation’ segment is another important development step for our company. We look forward to a long-term partnership with the shipping company and the AWI,” says Armin Ortmann, Managing Director of Northern Helicopter GmbH.
After lying in the shipyard in Bremerhaven, the “Polarstern” will set sail again at the end of June 2022. Traditionally, the research icebreaker goes on expeditions to the Arctic in the summer months and to the Antarctic from November to March. The tasks of the helicopter crew during the individual research projects are diverse. For example, the helicopters enable the scientists to cover a large area with ice thickness measurements. During these measurements, the measuring device hovers over the ice as the external load of the helicopter. During supply flights to Neumayer Station III, which is inhabited all year round, the helicopters also transport sensitive equipment that has to be brought from the ship to the station without vibration. And they are always there when people need to be transported quickly to the ship.
“Northern Helicopter GmbH was able to convince with competence and commitment during the tendering process. We look forward to professional cooperation in the service of science in the remote polar regions,” says Michael Thurmann, head of the research fleet at F.Laeisz GmbH shipping company
Missions in the cold, fog and darkness, such as those required on the “Polarstern” expedition, are part of everyday life for the pilots of NHC Northern Helicopter. They are on alert 365 days a year day and night at the station in St. Peter-Ording and at the station in Güttin on the island of Rügen for medical emergencies at sea and on the coast. The often challenging weather conditions in the North Sea place a lot of demands on the crews of the offshore rescue helicopters. Regular training under real conditions qualify them for these requirements and for the upcoming “Polarstern” expeditions. “For the extreme conditions of the polar region, such as 24-hour nights in the arctic winter or the glaring light of the Antarctic summer, the pilots are given additional training and preparation before the research ship departs,” explains Lars Vaupel, pilot and head of the “Polarstern” project at NHC Northern Helicopter. Vaupel has already accompanied 22 previous Arctic and Antarctic missions and achieved over 700 flight hours in the polar region alone. For him, the upcoming polar expeditions are a homecoming.
Technicians from the Operation Center of DRF Luftrettung accompany the expedition to maintain the helicopters. The shipyard in Rheinmünster near Karlsruhe is a recognized training company. There, around 130 technicians have a total of 15 workshop spaces (docks) and adjacent workshops for the repair of components such as engines or avionics. The base’s fifteen docks include eleven for helicopter maintenance, two docks for helicopter training and distribution, and two docks for Learjet maintenance. In addition, mobile maintenance teams are deployed for minor checks, maintenance or short-term malfunctions on the helicopters and aircraft. In this way, the operational readiness of the helicopters at the individual air rescue stations of the DRF Luftrettung and their ambulance aircraft can be ensured to the maximum extent. The maintenance company carries out around 2,500 maintenance orders per year, including maintenance for corporate customers. The experts for the BK 117C1, the helicopter type used on the Polarstern expeditions, also work in the shipyard. Northern Helicopter GmbH also has its BK fleet regularly serviced in the Operation Center.