By David Pugliese
Defence Minister Peter MacKay has said the first Cyclone maritime helicopter is expected to arrive at Canadian Forces Base Shearwater “soon” but sources say the minister’s claims are somewhat misleading.
The sources say while the first helicopter is expected to arrive in early December from Sikorsky, it is not being actually accepted by the Canadian Forces; it is still sometime away from being on the Canadian Air Force’s flight line.
The first Cyclone (MH02) has just finished being painted at West Palm Beach in Canadian Forces colors but with its US/Sikorsky Experimental registration number on the tail.
This paint job is essential as protection against the elements during the sea trials for which the Cyclone is being sent to Canada.
The sea trials should have been completed almost 20 months ago according to the delivery schedule contracted with Sikorsky in 2004.
Successful completion of the sea trials, followed by development and approval of the ship-helicopter operating limitations (SHOL) for the new helicopter, which will require several months at least, are a MHP contractual obligation that must be met long before Canada accepts delivery of the first aircraft and can begin training its own pilots on the Cyclone, according to sources.
The first “sea trials” MH is currently scheduled to arrive at Shearwater sometime in early December 2009. The actual sea trials aboard HMCS MONTREAL are expected to begin in February 2010 if all goes well.
Sikorsky still has not responded to a Defence Watch request for comment.
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