Leonardo, April 06, 2017 - The objective of the day was to revalidate the results of the April 3rd flights and from there the crew would see what other test or manoeuvre would be possible. The AW119Kx took off with maximum payload and fuel from Kathmandu at 7:30 am and reached Lukla by 8:07 am. The weather changed drastically in 15 minutes, and strong winds took over the region.
Nevertheless, the pilots proceeded with the agreed agenda. The helicopter landed at Tengbocche (12,700 ft) with passengers in ISA+15 conditions (5°C), and during the flight the AW119Kx with passengers and fuel touched a cruise altitude of 20,070 ft in the vicinity of Mount Everest. The helicopter then proceeded towards Kongde Ri, where it landed in extremely fierce wind conditions at 14,500 ft with passengers on board.
A second trip to Kongde Ri was carried out to transport the remaining passengers, as another helicopter that was onsite found it difficult to land in such conditions. After a brief approximate 30-minute stop, the helicopter proceeded towards the Everest Base camp where it landed at 17,000 ft with two passengers. The highlight of the day was when a total engine switch off was completed with relative ease at the Everest Base Camp. This achievement could be the highest recorded engine switch off with any civil registered helicopter in the world!
The helicopter returned to Kongde Ri , where it transported its passengers to Lukla and then proceeded to Kathmandu. The Leonardo team wrapped up its activities relatively early, by 3:00 pm, and was extremely satisfied with the day’s results.
Activities were resumed after a day of rest. Thanks to good weather conditions the pilots decided to target Kanchenjunga. In MTOW the AW119Kx departed Kathmandu by 6:30am towards Lukla. From Lukla a quick rescue mission was carried out from Periche (14,500 ft) wherein 2 passengers were rescued and brought back to Lukla in 10 minutes.
Further as part of the experimental flights, the AW119Kx landed at the village of Chukang (16,000 ft) with 230 kg of cargo. The AW119Kx then proceeded east towards Mount Kanchenjunga and in 36 minutes the pilots manoeuvred the AW119Kx through narrow valleys to reach their destination.
As the base camp of Mt. Kanchenjunga is located in a very remote location and with no supplies, the helicopter took off from Lukla with full fuel. It has to be said that today was the most turbulent in the entire Leonardo campaign in Nepal, with strong cross winds (>25 kts) at many locations. Notwithstanding the extreme conditions the crew, who have now grown very familiar with the high capabilities of AW119Kx, undertook multiple cargo operations near Mt Kanchenjunga. During these flights the AW119Kx touched a maximum altitude of 20,500 ft with passengers onboard near the Kanchenjunga base camp.
Along with multiple cargo flights a substantial flying in 18,000+ ft was undertaken for aerial photography. After spending in excess of 1hour and 30 minutes in the region, the AW119Kx returned to Lukla for refuelling, demonstrating an impressive endurance of 3 hours and 20 minutes, yet again, in such extreme conditions. Similar to the operations in the Dhaulagiri region, Leonardo is the first manufacturer to undertake experimental flights in the tough conditions and remote areas of Mt Kanchenjunga. The flight activity ended with the return flight to Kathmandu at 15:00.