- Founded in 1977, Norwegian Air Ambulance (NLA AS) has provided emergency services for almost 40 years now. As of 2015, the company operates 10 helicopters out of 9 bases all over Norway on a state financed contract as a part of the Norwegian health care system.
The company also runs 3 state funded bases in Denmark as part of the Danish health care system. On their rescue missions, the service has relied on the advantages of Airbus Helicopters’ twin-engine lightweight rotorcraft of the H135 family since the very beginning.
Strong crosswinds, lashing rain and steep transitions of altitude in difficult terrain are common features of the Norwegian landscape and a daily challenge for pilots. It was in june 2015 that NLA AS carried out a flight test campaign just outside of Oslo at one of its bases, engaging in in-depth experiments with the new H135 to get a feeling for the increased power of the helicopter. “We wanted to experience the advancements of the latest model in comparison to our current EC135 P2+ helicopters under live conditions in Norway” says Erik Normann, Chief Pilot at the “Norsk Luftambulanse”.
Normann has flown helicopters since the early ‘90s and looks back on 15 years of flying medical emergency missions in Norway. During these years he came to appreciate the helicopters of the H135 family for their compact size, yet spacious cabins, their maneuverability, power, reliability and availability. For the purpose of the flight test campaign, the H135 was loaded with 180kg more than the EC135 P2+ before both rotorcraft embarked on simulated missions in the Norwegian mountains. The overall result showed that the H135 provided clear operational advantages – even with the excess weight and in harsh weather – and is capable of carrying out medical evacuation and hoisting with great precision and high levels of safety. “The improvements in the latest H135 really made an impression on us,” concludes Normann.
The foundation currently operates 14 helicopters of the H135 family in total in Norway and Denmark and 2 H145s. With mission tasks that continuously increase in their demand towards the aircrews and the machines, as well as the 24-hour-availability of the services, the requirements towards the helicopters are constantly growing. As a consequence to the high frequency of the missions, the empty weight of the helicopters has gradually gone up over the last decade as the aircraft are required to load plenty of additional medical and operational equipment, as Normann explains.
“Anyone can read a flight manual. We wanted to experience the new H135 under live conditions and the aircraft really exceeded our expectations". - Erik Normann, Chief Pilot at the Norwegian Air Ambulance, about the Flight Test Campaign in June 2015.
Helicopters of the H135 family, the reference helicopter for EMS missions, have always been the machine of choice for the Norwegian operator. NLA AS currently holds a fleet of 14 units of the EC135 P2+ in medical services. “The increased tail rotor authority and the removal of its endplates really made the difference during the test campaign in the mountains, in the city and on the Norwegian countryside, especially in dangerous crosswind conditions,” Normann adds. “We are always in need of higher performance".