EU Naval Force Warship ESPS Tornado Maintains The Pressure On Pirates With Successful Helicopter ChangeoverDecember 31, 2013 - 13:31
On 26 December 2013 Spanish warship, ESPS Tornado, which is currently conducting counter piracy operations with the EU Naval Force, arrived alongside in the port of Djibouti to begin the process of a helicopter changeover. The changeover was necessary as the Augusta Bell 212 helicopter embarked in the ship had become unserviceable and a repair was not possible on the ship, nor locally. The Spanish Navy arranged for a replacement helicopter to be sent from Spain to Djibouti, which arrived by airfreight on a chartered Ilyushin aircraft on 28 December. The plan was to swap the replacement helicopter with the unserviceable one, which would be immediately returned to Spain on the Ilyushin aircraft once the aircrew had taken their legal rest stop.
Once ESPS Tornado berthed in Djibouti, then the operation to crane the unserviceable helicopter from the ship’s flight deck to a flatbed truck swung into operation. The helicopter was escorted from the port by the Djiboutian Coastguard to the French Airbase Aerienne 188, where a hanger and crane had been arranged. On arrival, the crew began the task of removing the complete main rotor assembly, as the airframe would not fit in to the transport aircraft with it in place. The task was achieved in one day, ensuring there was no delay in getting ready for the replacement helicopter’s arrival.
In the early hours of 28 December the replacement airframe arrived in Djibouti and there followed a very busy period to off load one airframe and immediately load the other. By 0500 hours all was secure and the Ilyushin was ready to return to Spain; with the ground and aircrews having a well-earned rest.
All was not over though for the Air Wing crew, who, once refreshed, started working on the newly arrived airframe to attach the main rotor assembly and get the helicopter ready for test flights on the 29th. This was quickly achieved and by the morning of the 30th December, the replacement helicopter was ready to begin its first task of transporting the Air Wing crew back to the Tornado.
This whole operation required considerable planning and cooperation to achieve in the tight time frame available. This involved the Spanish warship, the Ship’s Agents, Support Element Atalanta, the Port of Djibouti, Djiboutian Coastguard, Orion Detachment, Djibouti Airport and the French Airbase Aerienne 188; all of whose help, support and cooperation demonstrated what can be achieved.
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