Oxford's Airbus Helicopters sees Training get under way for Puma helicopter pilots
News of the test flights taking place is particularly sweet for bosses at Airbus Helicopters, who faced losing the £260m contract as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review back in 2010.
That would have meant half of Airbus Helicopters' 220-strong workforce at London Oxford Airport being made redundant as well as doubt being cast on the future of RAF Benson.
But after lobbying at the highest level, the vote went in favour of Airbus with bosses saying the 24 new helicopters now being readied for active service more than justifying the decision to give the contract the green light.
Ian Morris, Airbus Helicopters' director of defence business, said: “The people who will deliver the training have been trained themselves and now the first of the original Puma pilots are converting.
“The upgrade has been very successful. I have spoken to ex-flying colleagues at Benson who say it is exceeding all expectations both in terms of how easy it is to fly and its additional capability.
“A huge number of people were knocking it but we convinced people it was the right thing to do and that decision has been vindicated.”
New engines on the Pumas give them 35 per cent more power and improved fuel efficiency to allow them to fly faster and twice as far as the Puma Mk1.
They also have state-of-the-art digital cockpits and upgraded instruments.
Puma Force Commander Group Captain Nigel Colman said: “The Puma is a remarkable aircraft and its ability to operate in urban and harsh conditions will see it play a key role in any future deployments.’’ Seven of the RAF’s fleet of 24 Puma Mk2s have so far been delivered to RAF Benson and the remainder will be handed over during the next two years ahead of the helicopters entering service in 2015.
For more information, please contact:
Airbus Helicopters UK Limited
Tel: +44 (0) 1865 852 400