The Ivory Coast Air Force has taken delivery of two second hand Mi-8P transport helicopters, which it plans to use to assist with coronavirus mitigation efforts.
The aircraft (TU-VHL and TU-VHN) were delivered to the Force Aerienne de la Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast Air Force) in mid-March and were seen transiting Palma de Mallorca Airport in Spain on 14 March during their ferry flight to Abidjan.
The helicopters will be operated by the Groupe Aérien de Transport et de Liaison (Air Transport and Liaison Group), based at Abidjan-Port Bouet Airport.
The Mi-8Ps were built before 1993 and are configured for VIP transport, according to Key Publishing.
The Ivory Coast’s presidential flight operated a single Mi-17 in the VIP transport role but this was damaged on 27 November 2019 when an Mi-24D (TU-VHR) collided with it at Katiola during a visit by President Alassane Ouattara. The Mi-24D was written off and all four occupants were injured while the Mi-17 sustained repairable damage. It was subsequently placed in storage.
The Ivory Coast Air Force lost another Mi-24D on 18 March this year after it crashed at Felix Houphouet Boigny airport in Abidjan. The aircraft sustained moderate damage, coming to rest on its side. Both pilots received minor injuries and could escape the helicopter by themselves.
It is believed that the Ivory Coast only had two serviceable Mi-24s, in service along with AW139 and AS365N helicopters (three second hand Mi-24Ds were delivered from Bulgaria in 2017). Transport aircraft in the fleet include An-26B, Beech 350, C295W, Airbus A319, Beech 1900D, Gulfstream III, IV and G550 aircraft.
On 25 March, Chief of Armed Forces Staff General Lassina Doumbia said the Air Force will use some of its aircraft for medical evacuation duties as part of the country’s mobilisation against the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic. An Airbus C295W, an Antonov An-26, and a Mil Mi-8P helicopter were to be made available for airlifting patients.
Two second hand An-26s were received from Bulgaria in 2018 and a single C295W arrived from Spain in 2019.