AgustaWestland has delivered the first of two AW101 VIP helicopters to the Nigerian Air Force, using a massive An-124 transport aircraft.
At the end of October Ruslan International, a joint-venture company that manages and markets the Antonov An-124s belonging to its owners Antonov Airlines and Volga Dnepr Airlines, was contracted to transport the helicopter to Nigeria, in conjunction with German charter broker Karpeles Flight Services.
AgustaWestland flew the helicopter from its Yeovil factory in the UK to London Stansted Airport, where its technicians dismantled the aircraft inside a hangar. The An-124 used to transport the helicopter positioned itself partly inside the hangar to protect the helicopter from the weather.
The AW101 was then loaded onto the An-124 on a custom-built cradle. With an overall height of 4.38m, the helicopter on its transit chassis was a tight fit through the aircraft’s nose door, according to Ruslan International.
The load weighed 60 tonnes including support equipment and spares. The support equipment was later returned to AgustaWestland in the UK on another Ruslan International flight.
Once in Nigeria, the AW101 was offloaded using the An-124’s internal cranes and onboard winches, while an external crane was sourced by Ruslan International to assist AgustaWestland reassemble the helicopter over three days.
“For this movement, with its size, value and urgency, there was no viable alternative to the An-124,” said Ruslan commercial executive Paul Bingley.
The first Nigerian AW101 performed its maiden flight on 19 September. It was originally one of 12 destined for the Indian Air Force but diverted to Nigeria after the contract with India was cancelled over bribery and corruption allegations.
Nigeria will apparently further expand its helicopter fleet in the near future when it takes delivery of a significant number of Mi-171Sh and several Mi-35M helicopters from Russia.