3B-NBJ Airbus A340-313E (MSN 800) of Air Mauritius at Perth Airport – 17 June 2015.

3B-NBJ Airbus A340-313E (MSN 800) of Air Mauritius at Perth Airport – 17 June 2015. Photo © Ben Cambridge

3B-NBM Airbus A330-202 (MSN 883) of Air Mauritius, named 'Tronchetia', at Perth Airport - Sun 15 May 2016. Landing on runway 21 at 8:35am as MK940 from Mauritius. Photo © David Eyre

3B-NBM Airbus A330-202 (MSN 883) of Air Mauritius, named ‘Tronchetia’, at Perth Airport – Sun 15 May 2016. Photo © David Eyre

22 September 2016 © David Eyre

Air Mauritius is to operate additional summer seasonal flights on the Perth-Mauritius route using Airbus A340-300s, in addition to the regular twice weekly Airbus A330-200 service.

The temporary additional A340 services will use the same arrival and departure times (on different days) and same flight numbers as the regular A330 service.

From 7 July 2017, the regular A330-200 service will increase from two to three weekly return services.

Schedule is as follows:

Until 30 NOV 2016:

  • A330-200 WED & SUN – MK440 arrives at Perth at 0910 / MK441 departs Perth at 1305

1 – 16 DEC 2016:

  • A330-200 WED & SUN – MK440 arrives at Perth at 0910 / MK441 departs Perth at 1305
  • A340-300 THU – MK440 arrives at Perth at 0910 / MK441 departs Perth at 1305

17 DEC 2016 to 14 JAN 2017:

  • A330-200 WED & SUN – MK440 arrives at Perth at 0910 / MK441 departs Perth at 1305
  • A340-300 THU & SAT – MK440 arrives at Perth at 0910 / MK441 departs Perth at 1305

15 JAN – 2 FEB 2017:

  • A330-200 WED & SUN – MK440 arrives at Perth at 0910 / MK441 departs Perth at 1305
  • A340-300 THU – MK440 arrives at Perth at 0910 / MK441 departs Perth at 1305

3 FEB – 6 JUL 2017:

  • A330-200 WED & SUN – MK440 arrives at Perth at 0910 / MK441 departs Perth at 1305

From 7 JUL 2017:

  • A330-200 WED, FRI, SUN – MK440 arrives at Perth at 0910 / MK441 departs Perth at 1305
VH-XFJ Airbus A330-243 (MSN 1561) of Virgin Australia, named 'Gnaraloo Bay', at Perth Airport – Sun 31 July 2016. Flight VA553 from Sydney, landing on runway 24 at 12:08pm kicking up water spray as it uses its thrust reversers to slow down on the wet runway. Photo © David Eyre

VH-XFJ Airbus A330-243 (MSN 1561) of Virgin Australia, named ‘Gnaraloo Bay’, at Perth Airport – Sun 31 July 2016.
Kicking up water spray as it uses its thrust reversers to slow down on the wet runway. Photo © David Eyre

20 September 2016 © David Eyre

Virgin Australia plans to launch new Perth-Abu Dhabi services three times weekly with Airbus A330-200s from 9 June 2017.

This will be the first time that their A330 aircraft will be used on a long-haul international route, and the services will use their existing fleet, by slight reducing A330 services between Perth and the Eastern States.

Virgin’s A330-200s carry 275 passengers in a two-class configuration, with 20 Business and 255 Economy class seats.

Currently, Etihad Airways operates daily Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner services on the route. Etihad is a Virgin Australia shareholder and alliance partner.

Planned schedule for the Virgin A330 service:

  • From Friday 9 June 2017: VA11 departs Perth at 2305 (TUE/FRI/SUN), arrives in Abu Dhabi at 0635 the next morning.
  • From Saturday 10 June 2017: VA12 departs Abu Dhabi at 0820 (MON/WED/SAT), arriving in Perth at 2325 the same day.

 

VH-TVG Eurocopter AS350BA Squirrel (MSN 1895) owned by Channel Seven Perth Pty Ltd, at Jandakot Airport

VH-TVG Eurocopter AS350BA Squirrel (MSN 1895) owned by Channel Seven Perth Pty Ltd, at Jandakot Airport – Sunday 8 March 2015.
Soon to be replaced by an AS350B2 Squirrel, shared between Channels 7 and 9. Photo © Keith Anderson.

VH-JSV Bell 206B-2 JetRanger II (MSN 1659) of Prestige Helicopters, on lease to Channel Nine News, at Channel Nine Studios helipad, Dianella - Tue 30 September 2014. Built in 1975, ex N90184, ZK-HTC. Channel 9 Perth has leased a number of news helicopters over the years - Bell JetRangers VH-KKY, VH-TVJ, and VH-JRI, then no helicopter for a while, before leasing a Robinson R44, VH-JIB, then Bell JetRanger VH-BPB, before VH-JSV. Photo © David Eyre

VH-JSV Bell 206B-2 JetRanger II (MSN 1659) of Prestige Helicopters, on lease to Channel Nine News, at Channel Nine Studios helipad, Dianella – Tue 30 September 2014.
Soon to be replaced by an Airbus Helicopters AS350B2 Squirrel, shared between Channels 7 and 9. Photo © David Eyre

14 September 2016 © David Eyre

Television networks Seven and Nine have started a contract for shared helicopter news operations across Australia, including Perth, thereby ceasing their own separate news helicopter operations.

An Airbus Helicopters AS350B2 Squirrel, used by Channel Seven in Brisbane (VH-BTV) will be moved to Perth later in September 2016, and shared by Seven and Nine. The helicopter will be repainted in a generic livery without logos, coloured white with a dark navy blue tailboom.

Channel 7’s Squirrel VH-TVG has had its ‘7’ logo removed from the fuselage with only the word ‘News’ remaining. Channel 9’s JetRanger VH-JSV was never painted with their logo and continues to operate from their studios in Dianella for the time being.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) also recently issued a request for tender for news helicopters and fixed wing aircraft from bases across Australia, including Perth.

ABC Perth, SBS TV and Channel Ten Perth do not currently operate a news helicopter.

History of news helicopters in Perth

TVW Channel 7 Perth previously leased a Hughes 500D (369D) VH-KSY (MSN 30-0675D) from Great Northern Helicopters from around 1981/2, until it was sold in New Zealand in 1984. Since June 1986, Aerospatiale AS350B Squirrel VH-TVG has operated on behalf of Channel Seven. It was converted to an AS350BA in 1995. When Seven relocated its studios from Dianella to Osborne Park, the helicopter moved its base to Jandakot Airport.

STW Channel 9 Perth originally had a Bell 206B JetRanger II VH-KKY (MSN 636) leased from Westcoast Helicopters (later Helicopters Australia). Later, they replaced this with VH-TVJ Bell 206B JetRanger II (MSN 761) leased from Griffin Helicopters (formerly with Channel Ten Perth as VH-AZD).  Next came VH-JRI Bell 206B JetRanger III (MSN 4234) until cost-cutting measures introduced after the purchase of WIN TV ended this contract in 2008, and they had no news helicopter for a while. They then leased a Robinson R44 Raven II, VH-JIB, then leased a Bell 206 JetRanger, VH-BPB. Their most recent helicopter was another JetRanger, VH-JSV.

NEW Channel Ten Perth first had VH-AZH Bell 206B JetRanger III (MSN 3075) leased fromGreat Northern Helicopters. This was replaced by VH-AZD Bell 206B JetRanger II (cn 761) also leased from Great Northern Helicopters, which later became VH-TVJ and went to Channel 9 Perth.Next was VH-BPB Bell 206B JetRanger III (cn 3093) leased from Griffin Helicopters. (VH-BPB was later sold to Prestige Helicopters, Geraldton, and is now leased to Channel 9 News)It was replaced by another JetRanger VH-ZMN (cn 3591) leased from HeliWest, delivered on 2 July 2010, however this helicopter was written off on 19 January 2013 in a crash at Baskerville, WA whilst filming a news story about a truck crash.VH-ZMN was replaced by another JetRanger leased from HeliWest, VH-VJG (cn 2169), which was delivered on 28 January 2013, however this was replaced by another JetRanger, VH-RPK. They are currently not using a helicopter.

ABC TV Perth and SBS TV have never owned a news helicopter in Perth.

 

Hannes Arch tribute © Keith Anderson

9 September 2016 © David Eyre

Austrian pilot Hannes Arch, one of highly-skilled pilots to fly in the Red Bull Air Race series, tragically died in a helicopter crash on the evening of 8 September 2016, whilst flying a Robinson R66 in the Austrian Alps.

The 49-year old Arch was an keen mountaineer and ran an aviation company which delivered provisions to alpine huts.

The helicopter had been registered for a night VFR flight from Elberfelderstraße hut, a mountain hut located in the south central part of Austria, to Salzburg airport and the weather was good. Shortly after takeoff, the helicopter hit a cliff and crashed into a steep gully at around 9pm. Arch died instantly, but his 62-year old passenger, the warden of the hut, survived the crash with serious injuries. The cause of the crash has not been determined. It took rescuers three hours to hike to the remote site.

Arch first flew in the qualifying round for the Red Bull Air Race in 2006. He won the World Championships in 2008 and finished first or second overall during four seasons. So far this year, he was ranked third overall.

He visited Perth three times for the Red Bull Air Race, in 2007 (9th place), 2008 (3rd place) and 2010 (1st place).

Hannes Arch is the fourth Red Bull Air Race pilot who visited Perth to die in an air crash. The other three are:

  • Alejandro (Alec) MacLean (Spain) died 17 Aug 2010 in an Edge 540.
  • Glen Dell (South Africa) died 12 Oct 2013 in an Extra EA-330.
  • Mike Mangold (USA) died 6 Dec 2015 in an Aero L-39 jet.
A7-ALD Airbus A350-941 (MSN 010) of Qatar Airways at Perth Airport – 9 September 2016.

A7-ALD Airbus A350-941 (MSN 010) of Qatar Airways at Perth Airport – 9 September 2016.
First visit to Perth. The aircraft made a medical diversion on its way from Adelaide to Doha and is photographed here at the international terminal bay 153 at 1:28 am.
Photo © Dylan Thomas.

9 September 2016 © David Eyre

Qatar Airways made the first visit by one of their Airbus A350-900 aircraft to Perth, which was also only the second A350 ever to visit Perth, following a medical emergency diversion to Perth in the early hours of this morning.

A7-ALD (MSN 010), operating flight QR915, departed Adelaide at 9:31pm Adelaide time (8:01pm Perth time) on 8 September 2016 and headed northwest, out over the Indian Ocean near Port Hedland.

At 11:28pm Perth time, about 189 kilometres north of Karratha, the crew chose to divert to Perth due to a medical emergency with one of the passengers.

The aircraft landed on Perth’s runway 21 at 1:17am on 9 September 2016, and parked at Bay 153 at Terminal 1 International to offload the ill passenger.

At 4:01am, A7-ALD took off from runway 03 to continue its journey to Doha, where it arrived at 2:42pm Perth time.

This was the first visit by a Qatar Airways A350 and the second A350 to ever visit Perth.

FOR MORE PHOTOS, SEE OUR OUR PHOTO PAGE ON THE VISIT

Qatar Airways ordered 43 of the 315-seater A350-900, and 37 of the 369-seater A350-1000, and the airline’s CEO stated in May 2014 that the A350 would be used on Perth services “from early 2015”, but this did not eventuate.

Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines have both stated that they intend to use A350s to Perth in the next few years.

The first A350 visit to Perth occurred on 10 August 2014, when Airbus’ fifth development aircraft F-WWYB (MSN 005) visited Perth as part of route proving trials.

F-WWYB Airbus A350-941 (MSN 005) owned by Airbus, at Perth Airport – Sunday 10 August 2014 First visit to Perth by an A350. This is the 5th development aircraft, which landed on Perth Airport’s runway 21 from Doha (Qatar) at 3:15pm, using callsign 'AIRBUS 402', signifying that it was the second flight in the fourth series of route proving flights. Seen here taxying to park at Bay 56 at 3:23 pm. It departed back to Doha at 11:17pm as 'AIRBUS 403', before continuing on to Moscow (Russia) and Helsinki (Finland), then back to Toulouse. F-WWYB completed its Route Proving trials from 24 July to 13 August 2014. Route Proving trials are required as part of Type Certification, to demonstrate the A350’s readiness for airline operations. Photo © David Eyre

F-WWYB Airbus A350-941 (MSN 005) owned by Airbus, at Perth Airport – Sunday 10 August 2014
First visit to Perth by an A350. This is the 5th development aircraft, which landed on Perth Airport’s runway 21 from Doha (Qatar) at 3:15pm, using callsign ‘AIRBUS 402’, signifying that it was the second flight in the fourth series of route proving flights. Seen here taxying to park at Bay 56 at 3:23 pm. It departed back to Doha at 11:17pm as ‘AIRBUS 403’, before continuing on to Moscow (Russia) and Helsinki (Finland), then back to Toulouse. F-WWYB completed its Route Proving trials from 24 July to 13 August 2014. Route Proving trials are required as part of Type Certification, to demonstrate the A350’s readiness for airline operations.
Photo © David Eyre

Airlander 50 hybrid airship transporting mining equipment Artist impression © Hybrid Air Vehicles

Airlander 50 hybrid airship transporting mining equipment. Artist impression © Hybrid Air Vehicles

23 August 2016 © David Eyre

Hybrid airships are being proposed for transporting cargo to remote areas, such as mine sites, and may eventually be seen in Western Australia’s skies.

Benefits

Hybrid airships are are ideal for operating in remotes areas because they need very little supporting infrastructure – they can land anywhere with a flat landing area.

Benefits for resources projects are that no roads or railways need to be constructed prior to the start of a project.

Aeroplanes and helicopters are fast, but expensive to operate. Airships carry cargo for a one-tenth of the cost per tonne of helicopters, as well as having longer endurance and better cargo-carrying capacity than virtually any other flying vehicle.

Trains, trucks and ships can carry bigger cargo loads, but are slow and need supporting infrastructure (railways, roads or ports).

Hybrid airships are also more environmentally-friendly, producing less noise, less pollution, with a lower carbon footprint.

What are hybrid airships?

Hybrid airships are a new class of aircraft that use a combination of buoyant lift (lighter-than-air) from helium, aerodynamic lift from the shaped hull, and vectored thrust lift from engines that rotate and can direct their thrust in multiple directions.

Two companies are vying to win customers, and both have flown technology demonstrators and/or prototypes.

Both were competitors for a $500 million US Army contract to develop a Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) for intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance. The contract was won by Hybrid Air Vehicles, teamed with Northrop Grumman, beating a competing bid from Lockheed-Martin. However, the LEMV project was cancelled in February 2013.

Hybrid Air Vehicles designed, developed and manufactured the HAV 304 aircraft for the LEMV project, with Northrop Grumman as the prime contractor. The HAV 304 first flew on 7 August 2012. When the US Army cancelled the project in 2013, HAV purchased the HAV304 and converted in for civilian use as the Airlander 10. The Airlander 10 (which carries a 10 Tonne payload) first flew on 17 August 2016. This is currently the longest aircraft in the world (92 metres), capable of staying airborne for 5 days, with cruise speed of 80 knots (148 km/h), and powered by four 325hp 4-litre V8 direct injection turbocharged diesel engines. HAV is also proposing a larger Airlander 50, with a 50-Tonne payload. HAV states that 60% of lift comes from the helium, with the other 40% from aerodynamic lift, with vectored thrust from the engines contributing plus or minus 25%.

Lockheed Martin (USA) plans to have three hybrid airship variants in service by 2019; one that can lift 20 tonnes, another that lifts 90-tonnes and a massive version will carry 500 tonnes. The company says its 20 tonne version, which costs $US40 million ($52.5 million), cruises at 110km/h and is capable of flying around the world on a tank of fuel, although it would take a month. 80% of the lift on its hybrid airship comes from the buoyant lift produced by its helium and the other 20% from the aerodynamic shape, or from vectored thrust when taking off or landing. The company flew their technology demonstrator, the P-791, on 31 January 2006.

ZK-NCL Boeing 767-319ER (MSN 28745/677) of Air New Zealand at Perth Airport – Sat 24 January 2015 Parked at Bay 54 at the International terminal at 8.10pm, preparing for departure on the seasonal NZ162 service to Christchurch. Photo © Luke Pillion

ZK-NCL Boeing 767-319ER (MSN 28745/677) of Air New Zealand at Perth Airport – Sat 24 January 2015
Parked at Bay 54 at the International terminal at 8.10pm, preparing for departure on the seasonal NZ162 service to Christchurch.
Photo © Luke Pillion

23 August 2016 © David Eyre

Air New Zealand is planning to retire their Boeing 767 fleet on 31 March 2017, with NZ108 from Sydney to Auckland as their last scheduled 767 flight (NOTE: Subject to change).

The airline introduced the Boeing 767-200ER into service in September 1985, and their first 767 service to Perth was on 28 March 1986 by ZK-NBA. The 767-200ER fleet was retired in March 2005, with ZK-NBA being the last aircraft retired.

The 767-300ER was introduced in April 1991, with the first Perth visit on 28 October 1994 by ZK-NCH. The fleet was later modified with winglets to improve fuel efficiency.

The Boeing 767-300ER was replaced by Air New Zealand’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on services between Perth and Auckland from 12 September 2014, but 767s were still used on the seasonal Perth – Christchurch services.

Four Boeing 767-300ER remain in service at the time of writing, ZK-NCG, ZK-NCI, ZK-NCJ, and ZK-NCL.

A54-001 Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 234) of the Royal Australian Air Force, in 2 FTS markings, at Stans, Switzerland - Fri 12 August 2016. Taking off for an air-to-air photo shoot, now with the tail markings of 2 FTS (which is based at RAAF Base Pearce) and minus its Swiss registration HB-HWA. Photo © Stephan Widmer

A54-001 Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 234) of the Royal Australian Air Force, in 2 FTS markings, at Stans, Switzerland – Fri 12 August 2016.
Taking off for an air-to-air photo shoot, now with the tail markings of 2 FTS (which is based at RAAF Base Pearce) and minus its Swiss registration HB-HWA.
Photo © Stephan Widmer

20 August 2016 © David Eyre (Photo copyright Stephan Widmer – used with permission)

Following the inaugural flight by the first RAAF PC-21 A54-001/ HB-HWA on 21 July 2016, the aircraft was recently photographed by Stephan Widmer without is Swiss registration and wearing tail markings of 2 FTS (2 Flying Training School), which is based at RAAF Pearce.

A54-001 was taking off from the Pilatus facility at Stans, Switzerland, for an air-to-air photo shoot.

42 of the PC-21 aircraft will be used as trainers at RAAF Base East Sale in Victoria and RAAF Base Pearce in Western Australia, replacing Pilatus PC-9/A aircraft. Three PC-21s are being acquired for the Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU) based at RAAF Edinburgh, South Australia, and four Forward Air Control variants will go to 4 Squadron, which currently operates the PC-9/A Forward Air Control variant from RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales.

The first aircraft is due to be handed over to the RAAF at East Sale, Victoria in June 2017, and the first pilots course scheduled to start in early-2019.

 

A54-002 / HB-HWB Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 235) of the Royal Australian Air Force at Stans, Switzerland - Mon 8 August 2016. Taking off on its first flight at the Pilatus facility in Stans, Switzerland. Photo © Stephan Widmer - used with permission

A54-002 / HB-HWB Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 235) of the Royal Australian Air Force at Stans, Switzerland – Mon 8 August 2016.
Taking off on its first flight at the Pilatus facility in Stans, Switzerland.
Photo © Stephan Widmer – used with permission

A54-002 / HB-HWB Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 235) of the Royal Australian Air Force at Stans, Switzerland - Mon 8 August 2016. Taxying in after its first flight at the Pilatus facility in Stans, Switzerland. Photo © Stephan Widmer - used with permission

A54-002 / HB-HWB Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 235) of the Royal Australian Air Force at Stans, Switzerland – Mon 8 August 2016.
Taxying in after its first flight at the Pilatus facility in Stans, Switzerland.
Photo © Stephan Widmer – used with permission

 

 

A54-002 / HB-HWB Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 235) of the Royal Australian Air Force at Stans, Switzerland - Wed 3 August 2016. Undergoing final tests at Pilatus facility in Stans, Switzerland, prior to its first flight. Photo © Stephan Widmer - used with permission

A54-002 / HB-HWB Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 235) of the Royal Australian Air Force at Stans, Switzerland – Wed 3 August 2016.
Undergoing final tests at Pilatus facility in Stans, Switzerland, prior to its first flight.
Photo © Stephan Widmer – used with permission

8 August 2016 © David Eyre

Following the inaugural flight by the first RAAF PC-21 A54-001/ HB-HWA on 21 July 2016, the RAAF’s second PC-21, A54-002/HB-HWB (MSN 235) made its first flight on 8 August 2016 at the Pilatus manufacturing facility in Stans, Switzerland.

42 of the PC-21 aircraft will be used as trainers at RAAF Base East Sale in Victoria and RAAF Base Pearce in Western Australia, replacing Pilatus PC-9/A aircraft. Three PC-21s are being acquired for the Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU) based at RAAF Edinburgh, South Australia, and four Forward Air Control variants for 4 Squadron, which currently operates the PC-9/A Forward Air Control variant from RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales.

The first aircraft is due to be handed over to the RAAF at East Sale, Victoria in June 2017, and the first pilots course scheduled to start in early-2019.

(Photos courtesy & copyright Stephan Widmer)

VH-XNC Bombardier CL-600-2B16 Challenger 604 (MSN 5619) of Surveillance Australia Pty Ltd (Cobham SAR Services Pty Ltd), at Perth Airport - Sun 7 August 2016. First visit to Perth, on approach to runway 24 at 12:25pm. The first of four Challenger 604s, which will replace five Aerorescue Dornier 328s for Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s (AMSA) search and rescue operations. The contract commenced the next day (8 August 2016), with Perth being the first city to utilise the modified Challengers. Three Challengers will be used, with one as an operational spare. The Challengers have been converted with a search radar, large search windows, electronic sensors, and doors to air drop life rafts, satellite phones, food and water to people in distress. The Challengers carry five aircrew – a captain, first officer, visual search officer, electronic search observer and aircraft mission coordinator. Built in 2005, ex C-FIDT, N335FX, C-FIDT, C-GLWT. Photo © Steve Jaksic

VH-XNC Bombardier CL-600-2B16 Challenger 604 (MSN 5619) of Surveillance Australia Pty Ltd (Cobham SAR Services Pty Ltd), at Perth Airport – Sun 7 August 2016.
First visit to Perth, on approach to runway 24 at 12:25pm. The first of four Challenger 604s, which will replace five Aerorescue Dornier 328s for Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s (AMSA) search and rescue operations. The contract commenced the next day (8 August 2016), with Perth being the first city to utilise the modified Challengers. Three Challengers will be used, with one as an operational spare. The Challengers have been converted with a search radar, large search windows, electronic sensors, and doors to air drop life rafts, satellite phones, food and water to people in distress. The Challengers carry five aircrew – a captain, first officer, visual search officer, electronic search observer and aircraft mission coordinator. Built in 2005, ex C-FIDT, N335FX, C-FIDT, C-GLWT.
Photo © Steve Jaksic

VH-PPG Dornier 328-120 (MSN 3053) of AeroRescue Pty Ltd, operated for AMSA, at Perth Airport - Sun 31 July 2016. Taxying in after landing on runway 24 at 10:31am. Photo © David Eyre

VH-PPG Dornier 328-120 (MSN 3053) of AeroRescue Pty Ltd, operated for AMSA, at Perth Airport – Sun 31 July 2016.
These aircraft will be replaced by Cobham’s Challenger 604 jets. Photo © David Eyre

7 August 2016 © David Eyre

Perth today saw the arrival of the first of four Bombardier Challenger 604 aircraft, VH-XNC (MSN 5619), which will replace five Aerorescue Dornier 328s currently in use for Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s (AMSA) search and rescue operations.

The new $640 million contract was awarded to Cobham SAR Services / Surveillance Australia in 2014 and will operate for 12 years from 2016, with a 3-year extension option.

Perth is the first of the three bases to receive the new Challengers, with operations to start on 8 August 2016, followed by Cairns on 10 October 2016 and Essendon (Melbourne) on 12 December 2016.

The current contract is operated by AeroRescue, which operates a fleet of five Dornier 328 turboprops modified for SAR operations, with the one aircraft each based at Perth, Darwin, Cairns, Brisbane and Melbourne (Essendon). AeroRescue is a subsidiary of Darwin-based Pearl Aviation Australia.

By using faster and longer range jets, instead of the current turboprops, Cobham believes it will be able to provide the same capability with fewer aircraft. Three Challengers will be used, with one  as an operational spare.

Australia is responsible for 10 per cent of the global maritime and aeronautical search and rescue services. AMSA coordinated 429 rescues in 2015, saving 219 lives.

Challenger 604 modifications

The Challengers will be converted for search and rescue operations with:

  • multi-mode search radar
  • video anomaly detection system
  • search and rescue direction finder
  • high definition electro-optical turret
  • large observer windows
  • high-bandwidth satellite communciations
  • Acacia mission management system
  • door to air drop life rafts, satellite phones, food and water to people in distress (converted baggage door on lower left rear fuselage).

The first aircraft arrived in Australia in December 2015 and was officially unveied in early January 2016. Most modification work is undertaken at Cobham’s facility at Adelaide Airport.

Interestingly, photographs of VH-XNC indicate that it has not yet been fitted with its search radar, electro-optical turret or video anomaly detection system.

Operations

The Challengers carry five aircrew – a captain, first officer, visual search officer, electronic search observer and aircraft mission coordinator.

Job advertisements by Cobham state that day shift response times are 30 minutes from SAR alert call to calling for aircraft taxi clearance. Night standby response times are 60 minutes from SAR alert call to calling for aircraft taxi clearance, and crews must attend the airport within 30 minutes of being called, and the crew must reside near the airport to meet these requirements.

Flight duration may be up to 8 hours, and the total flight and duty period may exceed 14 hours. From time to time crew will be required to work away for a period of time to support large or extended operations anywhere in Australia, or internationally. The roster will comprise two day shifts (nominally of six hours each) on base at the airport and a 12 hour night standby shift, nominally from home.

The rate of flying is expected to be low in the order of 100 flight hours per annum, with pilots maintaining flying proficiency using a Level D full flight simulator located in Melbourne.

Challenger specifications

  • Transit speed: Mach 0.74 (445 Knots True Airspeed (KTAS))  to Mach 0.8 (490 KTAS).
  • Endurance: 8 hours in normal standby configuration
  • Range: 3,086 nautical miles (5,715 kilometres)
  • ViDAR: Sentient ViDAR maritime anomaly detection software with fixed staring three-camera array means that the Challenger has an improved capacity to conduct visual searches for small targets in the water, complementing the visual searching of the crew
  • Large observer windows: Located forward of the wings, these will assist in visual search operations.
  • Air drop door: An air operable door enables the Challenger to deliver life-sustaining stores and communications equipment to those in distress.
  • Live video streaming: Able to live stream video of the situation in real time as AMSA plans the rescue operation.
  • Cost: $6-7 million, fully equipped.
Map showing range of Cobham's Challenger 604 aircraft from each of the three planned bases - Perth, Cairns and Essendon. © AMSA

Map showing range of Cobham’s Challenger 604 aircraft from each of the three planned bases – Perth, Cairns and Essendon. © AMSA