New VVIP choppers begin arriving next month
The first of 12 AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters for VVIP transport will arrive in India next month to begin duties with the Air HQ Communication Squadron based at Palam Air Force Station in Delhi. The new helicopters will replace the old Mi-8/17 copters currently used for executive transport of the President, Prime Minister, senior government leaders and visiting dignitaries. The €560-million deal signed in February 2010 includes five years of extensive logistics support service and training of pilots, which began earlier this year.
The AW101 is said to be the largest helicopter in its class, sporting a cabin for 30 passengers plus a rear baggage bay. A 1.83-metre-high cabin provides stand-up head room and low levels of vibrations, due to an active vibration reduction system— one of the features that made it a chosen platform for Indian VVIP transport. The VVIP chopper deal is AgustaWestland’s first military sale in India. The company is currently awaiting the results of the Navy’s multi-role helicopter (MRH) programme, where it is looking to supply (as part of its joint venture with Fokker Eurocopter and Fokker), the NH90.