Chopper spared the chop by city upcyclers
By Simon Hacker | 23rd October 2023
Gloucestershire-based aircraft upcycling company Aerotiques have teamed up with Specialist Aviation Services (SAS) to spare a retired MD902 Explorer helicopter from landfill.
The airframe was built in 2001 and flew for almost 4000 hours before its retirement in 2017. It served across the globe in a variety of roles: as a police helicopter in Suffolk County, New York, as an air ambulance in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UK; and with the General Lighthouse Authority charity, Trinity House, in support of their operations around the UK coastline.
The Explorer features the NOTAR (No Tail Rotor) system, which uses fan driven air from its tail boom to counteract the torque of the main rotor, improving safety and reducing noise - a feature which made the model popular for use by the DEA in America in its war on drugs.
Aerotiques co-founder, Darren Lewington said: "With engines and all serviceable spare parts recovered from the aircraft to minimise waste, the composite and aluminium shell was destined to be scrapped. We stepped in to save the aircraft from the crusher and provide it with a new life."
Aerotiques, based at Meteor Business Park on Cheltenham Road East, have been working with Specialist Aviation for several years, disposing of their unserviceable and scrap components.
Mr Lewington added: "These must be rigorously controlled to ensure that unserviceable spares cannot re-enter the supply chain, and have to be damaged or disfigured to prevent reuse in aircraft. We do however find use for some of these items and repurpose them as artwork, functional items and furniture, which is the essence of our business."
All of the ancillaries had previously been collected from this particular helicopter but the cabin pod and tail boom were about to transported off site for final waste disposal. There remained very little scope to reuse the composite materials, the company said, that make the shell and major components - but there was potential to repurpose the entire helicopter for an altogether different use.
"Without engines, the aircraft is lightweight and easily transportable; we think it lends itself to a unique garden office, meeting space or 'glamping' pod and have set about repurposing this emergency service workhorse. This will ensure around 600kg of material is saved from landfill and the aircraft will enjoy something of a quieter life in its retirement."
Rebecca Borresen, head of Operations Projects at SAS said: "We are really excited to see this much loved aircraft being given a new lease in life and saved from landfill, after all other serviceable parts and recyclable materials had been removed. This approach supports the aims of our Sustainability Programme and ISO 14001 certification and we are really pleased to support Aerotiques in this project."
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