NAIROBI, KENYA: A new helicopter estimated to cost Sh700 million is being assembled at the Wilson Airport.
There is speculation about its ownership, but sources said a senior government official visited the hanger where the EC145 Airbus chopper was being put together on Wednesday ahead of a scheduled maiden test flight.
The completely knocked down (CKD) kits of the chopper arrived last week and engineers have spent the last few days assembling the aircraft.
Similar chopper models cost up to Sh700 million ($6.9 million), according to www.globalair.com, a website that 'prides itself as the market place for buyers and sellers in the aviation industry around the globe'.
Pictures of the chopper in the hangar were released online by KIDL Helicopter Operations, which is an owner-run company based in Kenya. But the photos were deleted minutes later from the website. The company's CEO is Marco Brighetti.
Brighetti, fellow pilots Mario Magonga and Chris Steward were in Germany for the last three months to be trained on flying the helicopter.
“The pilots are back and are supervising the assembling of the chopper. It is one of the best machines we have in the industry,” said a pilot aware of the developments.
The new owner will be the only private individual with such a chopper in Kenya. Only the Kenya Defence Forces and Kenya Police have helicopters with night vision capabilities. It has a range of 480km and can carry up to eight passengers.
According to airbushelicoptersinc.com, the chopper is at the top of its class in the light twin-engine helicopter category, incorporating Airbus Helicopters' advanced cockpit design, avionics and a sophisticated electrical system.
The website also says the aircraft is a member of the EC145 family, which today has logged over a million flight hours with its fleet of more than 650 aircraft worldwide.