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CGS Helicopter

The Council for Geoscience purchased a Eurocopter AS350 B2 helicopter

The Council for Geoscience purchased a Eurocopter AS350 B2 helicopter in 2005 with the aim of using it in various scientific mapping projects. The call sign for the helicopter is ZS–RZJ and therefore the scientists and management started to refer to the helicopter as “RZJ”. The AS350 B2 helicopter is also known as a “Squirrel” in the helicopter industry and is capable of carrying up to six people, including the pilot. The helicopter is used predominantly for geochemical sample collection and geophysical surveying. First public appearance of the rebranded RZJ. Since its purchase in 2005, the Council for Geoscience has used RZJ on two international projects, both of which were commercial. In 2006/07 it was used in Gabon on a geophysics project and in 2007/08 it was used in Ghana for geochemical mapping. These two projects earned the Council for Geoscience a considerable profit. With geochemical surveys, approximately 200 samples are collected per day over a predefined area. Owing to the higher efficiency rates of helicopter sampling compared to foot sampling, it is the preferred method of sample collection.

In this case, the crew normally consists of a pilot, a navigator (geologist), a sampler and a labeller. The helicopter crew is supported by a ground crew who at drop-points in the field picks up collected samples and provides fuel when necessary. Geophysical surveys are logistically less complicated than geochemical surveys

For more information:
Jannie van der Merwe - Strategic Management Office +27 (0)12 841 1133 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as they involve the helicopter flying at low altitudes to collect radiometric, gravimetric and lidar (topographical) data with special onboard geophysical equipment. To collect the data, the helicopter flies along predetermined, equally spaced, parallel flight paths covering the target area. RZJ incurred main rotor gearbox damage on 14 May 2012. The oilstrainer in the refill hole had broken off and fallen into the gearbox resulting in considerable mechanical damage. An official open tender process to have the helicopter repaired was followed but owing to a non-performing supplier and loss of time the helicopter lost its airworthiness. A ceiling cost to ensure an airworthy, refurbished helicopter was negotiated with Airbus, a leading aircraft manufacturer, and RZJ arrived at Airbus in October 2013 as an “intensive care patient”. The helicopter had been dismantled to cart it from the field to Gauteng. A long nerve-wracking process of inspections, quotations, motivations, approvals and investigation into the economic viability of repairing the helicopter ensued.

A break-even analysis model was developed and a decision was made by the Board of the Council for Geoscience to repair the helicopter to a state of airworthiness. After many months of meticulous engine rebuilding, spray painting and refurbishment, the major parts on the helicopter are now on par with that of a new helicopter. Final ground runs and the first flight tests occurred on 30 March 2015. The acceptance flight tests were conducted on 20 April 2015. The handover of RZJ by Airbus took place on 8 May 2015. The helicopter made its first public appearance on 12 May 2015 in the Botanical Gardens of Pretoria. The Namaqualand sampling project is now in progress in the Springbok/ Aggeneys area. RZJ will replace the hired helicopter that has been used up to now to ensure that a saving can be achieved, provided that the helicopter is maintained and handled with due care in future. The helicopter has a revenue generating potential since it may be hired out when the Council for Geoscience is not using it for its own projects. Interested parties from the industry have already investigated the possibility of hiring the helicopter. However, the main purpose of the helicopter is for it to be used on CGS projects. We would like to extend our gratitude to the CGS Board and Airbus management and staff that assisted in ensuring that the helicopter regained its airworthiness. It is now our duty to take good care of RZJ to maintain its capabilities as a revenue generating asset.

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