Against the backdrop of a third report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change summarising the toll of our warming climate, the World Earth Day movement is calling on businesses and individuals to #InvestInOurPlanet for a sustainable future.
For many years, operators of Airbus helicopters have been working behind the scenes to play their part, sometimes in ways that pass unnoticed to the untrained eye. That may mean servicing the alternative energy industry, redressing the wrongs done to natural habitats, enabling cleaner construction, deterring poachers, or simply conducting research.
Winds of change: helicopters help maintain offshore turbines
Year-round, helicopters transport mechanics and equipment to offshore wind farms, no matter how challenging the weather conditions are. Helicopter Travel Munich (HTM) specialises in transporting service technicians to offshore windfarms and, once there, hoisting them down onto the turbines. In addition to several H135s employed across the German Bight area, where some of the biggest North Sea wind farms are located, HTM has been operating several H145s since 2017. “We help the offshore wind energy industry to get their turbines back online,” says Bernd Brucherseifer, HTM Managing Director. “This is our part of the change towards renewable energy.”
Restoring the natural balance of lakes in Sweden with H125s
The acidification of Scandinavia’s lakes is caused when sulphur and nitrogen oxide in the atmosphere return to Earth as acid rain. At its mercy are fish stocks, zooplankton and phytoplankton. One tactic to lower freshwater pH levels is by spraying lime (calcium) on lakes to restore the natural balance.Swedish operator Scandair Helicopter uses its fleet of three H125s to drop powdered lime on the region’s lakes, releasing 30,000 sling loads annually. "We have made our own equipment, including a GPS-controlled bucket system. This allows our pilots to simply focus on flying at a slow airspeed while the system automatically signals the bucket when and where to make a drop and how much," says Marius Johansen, Executive Director of Scandair and himself a pilot.
Protecting Africa's endangered species with aerial surveillance
Heroic efforts are taking place to combat wildlife crime, not least by two Namibian organisations that employ H125s to perform anti-poaching and game counts, plus park management: the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, and more recently, the African Wildlife Conservation Trust, which took delivery of a new H125 in 2021.
“One advantage of the aircraft is [that] constant aerial surveillance of the area does deter people,” says Carl-Heinz Moeller, chief pilot at the African Wildlife Conservation Trust. In nearby Botswana, the police service employs one of their four regular H125s for anti-poaching missions, as does the South African National Parks to help protect wild rhinos. A searchlight on the helicopter aids in discouraging potential misdeeds in the country’s notable game reserves.
Construction minus destruction: helicopters play a key role in environmentally-conscious energy infrastructures
French company AIRTELIS proves its commitment to sustainable processes through the aerial work of its H225 in power line construction. Numbering among the benefits are shorter project timelines, fewer ground vehicles (thus protecting biodiversity), and less need for access roads. “We are associated with stakeholders during each project to improve the consideration of biodiversity, including avifauna,” says Laurent Giolitti, Executive President of AIRTELIS.
Helicopters also play a role in washing high- and medium-voltage power transmission lines in Chile, where operator Ecocopter uses the H125 to clean electrical insulators. The benefits include a savings of between 60% and 85% less water needed for washing versus ground methods. Demineralised water removes dirt and residue resulting from pollution and salinity, ensuring the country’s energy infrastructure performs with maximum efficiency.
A short HOP to climate data
The Brazilian Navy carries out the logistics for the country’s Antarctic Programme (PROANTAR) using an H135 to transport staff, equipment and supplies to the ice-bound continent. Some of the research missions, especially those related to paleontology, are carried out in very remote areas that require navigation across Antarctica’s Weddel Sea. For these missions, the helicopter plays an indispensable role as it helps guide the ship’s course.
With its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and Everglades National Park, the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science collects and studies climate data with a modified H125 dubbed the Helicopter Observation Platform (HOP). The flying laboratory’s sensors, cameras, radar and computers allow for remote sensing of marine ecosystems and research into the exchange of gases and dust at the Earth’s surface. Roni Avissar, Dean of the Rosenstiel School says, “A lot of incremental research is being done, spread over many years, and the information we’re collecting is being analysed and translated into understanding the climate system.”
In Norway, Helitrans operates flights on behalf of the government to study moose migrations and the activity of coastal birds. With Norway’s mountains, forest and coastline a treasure worth protecting for sightseers and researchers, the company’s H125s also do duty as firefighting assets to make sure the natural beauty remains.