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Friday, August 1, 2008

Rotorcraft Report: U.N. Relief Agency Seeks More Diverse Helo Support

PUBLIC SERVICE

The World Food Program needs more qualified helicopter-support vendors around the globe, the head of that U.N. agency’s aviation unit told Rotor & Wing.

Pierre Carrasse said the agency at any one time has 60 aircraft in the field, operating in 15 or so countries around the world. Most of those are fixed-wing, he said, but the contracted helicopters the agency fields play key roles in bringing relief supplies to areas that fixed-wing aircraft and trucks can’t reach. Most of the aircraft it uses are Kazan Mi-8s or Eurocopter Pumas for airlifting food and supplies. It frequently uses light helicopters for survey and assessment missions.

The need for such support is growing as the frequency of natural disasters increases, Carrasse said. For instance, seasonal flooding in East Africa historically has occurred every five years but has been an annual event since 2005.

Following the 1999 crash of one of its contracted aircraft flying a relief mission to Kosovo, the World Food Program revamped its operations, setting up offices to manage its aviation activities and perform safety and operational audits of its aircraft vendors. To qualify to work with the agency, Carrasse said, an operator must pass an audit that reviews its organizational structure, training, maintenance, facilities and finances, as well as its ability to support the agency’s operations in the field. The audit process is not aimed at eliminating potential vendors "but helping them to build the capability" to support the World Food Program.

The agency needs more approved contractors to supply its aircraft, Carrasse said, particularly in Central America, Australia and Southeast Asia. Headquartered in Rome, the World Food Program is the lead U.N. agency in the fight against global hunger.

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