NNSL Photo/Graphic

Canadian North

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

Choppers in Yk for cold weather testing
French helicopter company hopes for -40 C temperatures

Erin Steele
Northern News Services
Updated Tuesday, February 11, 2014

While many Yellowknifers are happy when winter temperatures rise towards zero, a helicopter crew is crossing their fingers for the opposite.

nnsl photo

Olivier Gensee, left, Michel Oswald, Patrick Simon and Philippe Braca are among a team of 11 people in Yellowknife from France to perform cold weather testing on a EC175 helicopter. The helicopter is currently certified to -15 C, but the crew hopes to receive certification for -40 C. - Erin Steele/NNSL photo

A team of 11 people from France are in Yellowknife to push the limits of a EC175 chopper with hopes of receiving certification for temperatures as low as -40 C. By press time, the aircraft had received certification for -15.

"We park the helicopter outside for at least 10 hours, and then see if it starts," said Olivier Gensse of a process called the cold soak.

Following that would be a flight-test to assess handling in harsh conditions, during which everything is recorded and analyzed.

"We test it in the worst conditions," he said.

The point is to make the chopper as versatile as possible and, in turn, more appealing to customers who utilize the helicopters all around the world, said Gensee.

"We want it to achieve -40 C to 50 C," he said of the ideal chopper, which would have to go through a similar hot-weather testing process.

The helicopter in Yellowknife is a prototype that can seat up to 16 people, plus a crew. Most of these types

of choppers are sold to oil companies for travel to their offshore platforms, said Gensse.

The team crossed the ocean by airplane and travelled in the helicopter from Edmonton to Yellowknife, with a stop in Fort McMurray.

Along with the crew and data analysts is a representative of EASA - the French equivalent to Transport Canada, which actually grants the certification.

The testing was done at Adlair Diamond Aviation, just west of Yellowknife Airport. According to owner Rene Laserich, this site is often where organizations go to conduct such tests.

"We provide a secure environment," said Laserich.

Organizations including NASA, Bombardier and Beechcraft have all done work at the facility in the past.

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.