The BK-117 was the result of the increasing collaboration in the production of helicopters in the 1970's. A joint development by Messerschmitt Bolkow Blohm of Germany and Kawasaki of Japan, the first of four prototypes flew on June 13, 1979. The 8-12 seat multi-purpose helicopter was aimed at the civil market. The aircraft builds on previous helicopters, incorporating features like the rigid rotor system developed by MBB for the Bo-105. The BK-117 was also the first helicopter of this size to incorporate rear-clamshell doors. Deliveries commenced in 1981. Production has occurred in Germany, Japan, and in Indonesia.
The BK-117 has established a presence in New Zealand, with 15 appearing on the register as at July 1, 1998. The aircraft are used for rescue work (as illustrated below), tourist operations, passenger, and agricultural work.
The aircraft illustrated below has been operated for the Auckland Regional Helicopter Trust since mid-1993. Previously utilising an AS-350 Squirrel, the twin engined BK-117 provided a heavier lift capability and a bigger airframe for rescue work. The aircraft which operates from the Trust base in Mechanics bay is utilised for SAR, firefighting, and emergency services training, in addition to its rescue role.
The aircraft is well set up for its work, featuring full instrumentation for both crew on the flight deck, additional radios for SAR work, and GPS. The range of the aircraft has been extended with the standard auxiliary tank (115ltr) and an additional internal tank (380ltr). Operations are normally in a 160 km radius of the base, allowing 45 minutes each way for travelling, and 30 minutes at the rescue scene. The aircraft can normally be in the air within 15 minutes of being notified, and is set up to carry seven people and a stretcher, or four people and two stretchers. The clam shell doors at the rear of the aircraft provide easy access.
The aircraft carries over NZ$1 million worth of equipment - including everything expected in a standard ambulance, and some extras for severe emergencies. In addition to the St Johns trained Ambulance Paramedic, the available crew can be supplemented by Doctors and ICU Nurses. For other tasks, the BK-117 carries a 30 million candle-power nightsun, a winch capable of lifting more than 200kg over 50m, attachments for up to 1,200kg loads to be slung below, and the aircraft can also be fitted with a firefighting bucket capable of delivering 950ltr at a time.
Last Text Update:- 20 September, 1998
Last Picture Update:- 14 May, 2003
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