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The “Polarstern” research vessel has been underway in the Arctic and Antarctic for more than 35 years. DRF Luftrettung’s expertise is there on board during its expeditions through the polar seas; since 2016, the helicopters which accompany every trip are serviced by DRF Luftrettung’s mechanics. The helicopter operators were impressed by DRF Luftrettung’s comprehensive air rescue know-how and its technical service center with its own development department.
The helicopters are used for reconnaissance missions across the ice, observing wildlife, collecting supplies and transporting personnel. The “Polarstern” therefore has a landing platform and a hangar for machine maintenance. The ship is operated by the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) in Bremerhaven. The research ice breaker recently supplied the Neumayer Station in the Antarctic, as from the fall it will be on a major mission in the Arctic. The crew relies on reliable technology and equipment on the ship at temperatures of as low as -50 C during their expeditions. Malfunctions in this hostile environment mean a high risk for the researchers and their mission. Ongoing maintenance of all technical components is essential.
Helicopter operator HeliService was therefore on the lookout for a reliable partner, who could ensure this maintenance with the required high level of quality. In doing so, the company also contacted DRF Luftrettung. It is approved by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and is therefore in a position to implement technical innovations like helicopter modifications, within its development department, from one provider. This service was an important argument for the client regarding the business partnership. The level of precision and reliability with which the aircraft mechanics and avionic specialists carry out their work also met the desired requirements.
By the end of May, the technicians modified a third helicopter in DRF Luftrettung’s hangar which will be used on the research vessel. A total of 28 modifications were necessary on the BK-117 C1 aircraft, starting with modernizing the cockpit and going right through to installing an emergency float which would keep the helicopter on the surface in the event of an emergency landing or autorotation on the water.
“Our own maintenance department has a great deal of expertise,” explained Jan Berger, head of sales at DRF Luftrettung. “Our certifications particularly qualify us for modifications like these. Only a few companies in Europe can offer these alterations — especially so quickly.”
DRF Luftrettung’s development department can, among other things, carry out and approve helicopter modifications to install special equipment holders. The extremely competent staff in the development department work closely together with the authorities and manufacturers, and work in accordance with the latest science and technology levels.