WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s Ministry of Defence has issued a request for tenders for a simulator to train pilots to operate the NH90 medium utility helicopters flown by 3 Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
The service operates eight of the TNZA variant of the NH90 helicopters from the Ohakea air base located north of Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. The Air Force anticipates an annual “flying“ rate for the simulator of between 1,500 and 1,900 hours.
A minimum requirement for the simulator’s software and hardware is meeting the NATO Helicopter Management Agency’s final operating configuration, including five multifunction displays — and level-three standards as detailed in European Aviation Safety Agency certification specifications for helicopter flight simulators; however, the MoD said that “a full-motion simulator is also acceptable.“
The timeline from when a contract is signed to delivery to New Zealand will be approximately two years. The RFT closes Sept. 28, 2017.
A request for proposals for simulator services was awarded in September 2016 to Helicopter Flight Training Services GmbH. This, the MoD told Defense News, was done to allow interim access to simulation training while a decision was made on potential procurement of a simulator for operation within New Zealand.
The Air Force’s 10-ton class of NH90s were delivered between 2011 and 2014 under a $571 million contract replacing a fleet of 14 UH-1H Iroquois, or “Huey,” helicopters that were in service from 1966 until June 2015.
To support the new helicopters, the Air Force opened the Helicopter Synthetic Training Centre, or HSTC, in Ohakea in 2012, which is also the home base to a fleet of A109 helicopters.
Training to date has included a Virtual Interactive Procedure Trainer — a computer-based NH90 part task trainer — at Ohakea’s HSTC and traveling overseas to use NH90 simulators.
The Air Force’s Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322-01/9-powered NH90s have encountered a number of challenges, many common to introducing a new aircraft, including delays from the original equipment manufacturer and a decline in the number of flying instructors.
According to the 2014 New Zealand Defence Force’s Annual Report, the NH90s flew 667 hours, 69 percent of budgeted hours.
Last year’s Annual Report doesn’t provide details but does say the helicopter flew 95 percent of budgeted hours — and 3 Squadron is allocated approximately 1,700 flying hours annually for the NH90.
Significantly, the NH90 has operated from the Royal New Zealand Navy’s multirole vessel HMNZS Canterbury and two NH90s were embarked on that ship on their maiden deployment in February 2016, providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief to Fiji in response to tropical cyclone Winston.
New Zealand’s NH90s have also operated in Australia alongside the similar Australian MRH90 helicopters, in exercise Talisman Saber.
In July 2016, a Royal New Zealand Air Force NH90 lifted a 3,748-pound Department of Conservation hut to an altitude of more than 4,000 feet.