In an impressive feat of logistics and skillful flying, NAC Helicopter Operations, a division of the National Airways Corporation (NAC), recently transported six of its fleet of helicopters from Johannesburg to Antananarivo, Madagascar, to be used in campaigning during the run up to that country’s presidential elections in November.

After weeks of careful planning and administrative manoeuvering, the helicopters were ferried from Gauteng’s Grand Central Airport with a stop at Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport before travelling to Vilanculos, Mozambique. After two more stops within Mozambique - at Beira and Nacala - the helicopters then executed a two-hour open water crossing over the Indian Ocean, landing at Mahajanga, Madagascar, before arriving at their ultimate destination in the capital Antananarivo.

The riskiest leg of the operation was the open water crossing, for which each helicopter was equipped with life rafts and vests. The team on the ground was able to monitor the crossing via satellite tracking, breathing a collective sigh of relief when the aircraft first made land in Madagascar.

Besides some initial delays regarding approvals from the Madagascar Civil Aviation Authority and a minor maintenance issue on one of the Bell 407’s, which was resolved in Mozambique, the entire operation was completed according to plan and without incident.
Max Pretorius of NAC Helicopter Operations commented, “The complexity of moving six helicopters more than 2 000 kms away through three different African countries cannot be underestimated. The fact that the operation proceeded without a hitch is a testament to the brilliance and experience of our pilots and the meticulous preparation and planning of our knowledgeable operations staff.”

The team responsible for the success of this enormous undertaking can’t sit back and reflect on what they managed to achieve just yet, however. The entire operation still needs to be repeated – this time in reverse - to bring all of the helicopters and pilots safely back home again.

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