UK improves Merlin support

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The UK Royal Air Force and Royal Navy are to increase the interval between scheduled major maintenance of their AgustaWestland EH101 Merlin helicopters, following early experience in running a nine-aircraft "pulse" line for the type at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall.

The RAF's 22 Merlin HC3 transports and the RN's 42 Merlin HM1 multi-role helicopters initially underwent major maintenance after every 330 flight hours. This was later increased to 500h and is soon set to rise to 600h, reflecting a cultural shift between the military and industry from "pay when it breaks to pay when it flies", says Cdre Simon Baldwin, the UK Defence Logistics Organisation's Merlin integrated project team leader. The depth maintenance facility will eventually be capable of completing work on each aircraft in 63 days, down from a current total of up to 110 days.

Merlin operations will also be improved through the fleet-wide introduction from late this month of an enhanced health and usage diagnostic system.