First flights: from Kathmandu to Everest
24 th March 2017
Activities on Friday requested about three hours of flight in total. The mission of the day was to validate the max performance of the helicopter with passengers and pilots on board with a full tank of fuel.
With Simone Moro in the left seat and Ezio Oliva as the Captain the AW119Kx flew to Hillary & Tenzing Luka Airport, some 9,022 feet above sea level and en-route flew at 11,000 feet density altitude (HD).
25 th March 2017
On Saturday the team working on the AW119Kx project reached the mountain airport of Lukla, but was forced to stay overnight as the weather closed in and therefore the helicopter could not return to Kathmandu.
27th March 2017
The day started off early at 0640 and began with a rescue call from Dingboche, where no other helicopter could respond due to dense clouds/fog over the terrain. However, taking advantage of the high reserve power margin and advanced avionics on the Kx, Capt. Moro and Capt. Oliva decided to respond to the call. They could comfortably penetrate the dense clouds (poor visibility) and make a safe landing in Dingboche (14,300 ft) with passengers onboard.
After dropping off these passengers and picking up the 2 hikers who were experiencing High altitude sickness (AMS – acute mountain sickness), they received another medical emergency call from a nearby village, Pakding. The pilots were very happy with the smooth take off from Dingboche, and the AW119Kx made a swift landing in a potato field in Pakding to pick-up a local woman, who was also experiencing sudden altitude sickness. All three passengers were then safely transported back to Kathmandu in a record 35 minutes. The AW119Kx proved to be faster than all the other helicopters operating in the region and could land and takeoff in unprepared terrains with relative ease.
In mid-afternoon the AW119Kx carried out a passenger transportation mission, with full load, at Maximum takeoff weight from Kathmandu to Lukla. The helicopter landed comfortably in Lukla. Taking advantage of the good weather conditions, the helicopter was prepared to undertake experimental flights in the Everest Base Camp region. In 2 hours the crew performed a total of 14 landings, the highest being 16,150 ft in Gora Shep.
The highest cruising altitude reached during these flights was 22,000ft between Everest base camp 2 and base camp 3, ambient temperature was a freezing -10 deg C. The flight operations for the day ended at 1,645 in Kathmandu.