Jinxed Kamov firefighting helicopter ‘fleet’ “now all grounded”

It’s one of the greatest contemporary scandals: the €348 million in deals and contracts involving six Russian ‘firefighting helicopters’ that have almost never been fully operational and which Air Force chiefs didn’t even want (click here). Now, Público reveals, not one of the lumbering aircraft is able to fly.

The reason is as contentious as the helicopters’ history. Everjets, the company operating the Kamovs, claims one of the aircraft is fully-operational, and only unable to fly because of regulatory bureaucracy.

President of the company Ricardo Dias adds that two of the Kamovs are undergoing maintenance. “One is ready, and the other will be at any moment”, he told Público. “We are tranquil”.

But the situation as of today (Tuesday January 30) is that the country has only three emergency helicopters (of other makes) able to scramble in any kind of emergency.

The ‘bureaucratic’ problem said to be keeping the only ‘fully functional’ Kamov on the ground concerns Everjet’s request for a time-extension on the use of a part that needs to be substituted.

Regulating authority ANAC has refused the request on the basis of an accident to a Canadian helicopter flying with the same faulty part. Put simply, ANAC doesn’t deem Everjets request complies with safety regulations.

But there is more: Público suggests Everjets contract stipulates that when one of the Kamov is ‘out of service’ the company has to bring in a substitute aircraft – which isn’t happening.

Pedro Silveira of Heliportugal – the company that used to operate the Kamovs – tells Público that it won’t happen, either.

“Everjets cannot offer an equivalent helicopter because they do not have one to offer”, he told the paper, leaving the inference that (yet again) million dollar contracts may have been awarded a tad hastily.

It is only a few months since three Civil Protection chiefs were cited in a damning investigation into Kamov management and maintenance deals (click here).

Again, Público broke the story explaining that the men faced accusations of having “turned a blind eye to no less than 99 notorious failings” in the helicopters leaving the government to sign vastly expensive contracts over machines that were not even fit to fly.

At issue, added Público, was the suspicion of crimes of corruption, economic participation in business, falsification and prevarication.

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