By 2018-03-29 InPortugal

Russian technicians accused of “moving parts” belonging to Portugal’s grounded fleet of firefighting Kamovs

Portugal’s ‘jinxed’ fleet of firefighting helicopters – purchased in a deal now under criminal investigation, and ironically signed off by prime minister António Costa when he was minister for internal administration – are back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

This time it seems the story will conveniently explain why none of them will be ready for duty at the start of the summer fire season in May.

The official line is that Russian technicians – the only people who apparently understand the mechanics of these lumbering craft – have been “moving equipment and parts without prior authorisation”.

It’s something that has never happened before, says Everjets, the company paid millions to maintain and run the six helicopters, none of which right now are in work-ready condition.

Curiously, little emphasis has been put on the assertions by Heliavionics – the Russian company in charge of the Kamov’s maintenance – that all the fuss is “absurd”.

TSF radio says Heliavionics also says it has never required authorisation in the past to move parts or equipment.

But media elsewhere has stressed the ‘sealing off’ of the Kamov hangar at Ponte de Sor airfield by Civil Protection, and the assertions by Everjets that “due to the contract celebrated with the State, and the maintenance plan in place, it will now be impossible to comply with objectives and guarantee the aircrafts’ readiness, which has been seriously compromised”.

Jaded observers suggest the story is much more a precursor to new and costly firefighting aircraft lease agreements. A case, perhaps of ‘Kamov it’…

The Soviet choppers have been mired in controversy since their purchase; have almost never been fully operational as a fleet – and are the subject of a long-running investigation into suspicions of corruption, economic participation in business, falsification and prevarication. There are number of ‘big names’ involved, but since three Civil Protection chiefs were cited by Público over two years ago (click here), very little appears to have moved forwards.

Four months ago, a TVI investigation into Portugal’s rented firefighting support touched on the Kamov deal and how “there were no good reasons for purchasing the Kamovs” in the first place (click here).

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