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Norway sticks to AW101 helicopter schedule despite ground accident

Norway has no current plans to accelerate deliveries of its new fleet of search and rescue-roled Leonardo Helicopters AW101s despite the severe damage sustained by the lead example in a ground accident last week.

A total of 16 AW101s are being acquired by the ministry of justice under the Norwegian all weather search and rescue helicopter programme for operation by the country's air force.

The first aircraft arrived at the Royal Norwegian Air Force's Sola base near Stavanger on 17 November, but overturned during ground testing a week later, causing what the service describes as "severe damage".

The justice ministry requires a complement of three helicopters to begin search and rescue operations with the AW101 in April 2018.

Although it is still working to this deadline, it says there are no plans to alter the pace of future deliveries to account for the likely lengthy absence of the helicopter damaged on 24 November.

The second AW101 is scheduled to arrive in early 2018, the ministry says, with a further five examples handed over during the course of next year. Five more are due in 2019 and the remainder in 2020.

A military accident investigation in now under way, but no details of the incident have been released.

Images of the helicopter show it lying on its right side, with severe damage to its main rotor blade assembly.

Meteorological data for Sola at the time of the accident indicates 19kt (35km/h) winds from the southwest, gusting to 29kt. Images from the scene appear to show the helicopter positioned at the site's heliport, to the west of the main runway 11/29.

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