European company testing helicopters in Inuvik, N.W.T.

The largest European helicopter manufacturer is in Inuvik, N.W.T., this week to test its new model in frigid Arctic conditions.

Eurocopter wants to see how new model functions in Arctic conditions

Eurocopters is testing its new model in Inuvik, N.W.T., this week. The company wants to find out how the chopper handles frigid Arctic conditions. (Europcopter)
The heliopter's back rotor is encased to prevent injuries if the wind pushes the aircraft when it is low to the ground, and also to prevent problems from hitting power lines or trees. (Europcopter)

The largest European helicopter manufacturer is in Inuvik, N.W.T., to test its new model in frigid Arctic conditions.

The crews wanted cold weather, and they got plenty of it. Temperatures in the town have been well below –40 for the past few weeks and there have even been record blizzards. Winds gusting up to 100 km/hr get the crew grounded for three days.

Eurocopter’s flight test engineer, Carl Ockier, said the location is a good match for the tests.

"It's the engine starting, it’s batteries, but also the handling qualities change a little bit when it gets cold and we need to verify that everything is as expected," he said.

Ockier said that if all goes well, the new chopper could be marketed in Canada. 

"[This helicopter] is mostly intended for emergency medical evacuations, search and rescue missions," said Ockier. "The aircraft has a large cabin so you can easily accommodate two patients in there. An intensive care unit can be put in there, so people who are in intensive care can be transferred with a helicopter like that," said Ockier.

Another distinct feature of the aircraft is an encased back rotor which is designed to reduce injuries in cases where unpredictable wind pushes the helicopter while it is low to the ground. The casing can also protect the helicopter from power lines or trees.

Volger Bau, one of the test pilots, has been taking the helicopter up 6,100 metres to test the limits of the innovative design.

"There are 400 sensors that record … every stress, every movement, every RPM [revolutions per minute] from the engine, everything," said Bau.

The basic model is expected to cost about $6 million Euros, or about $8 million Canadian.

This is not Eurocopter's first product testing in the North. The ancestor to the current model was tested in Inuvik 12 years ago.