in Business Aviation / Features

A Super Puma for the president

Posted 29 November 2017 · Add Comment

A single Airbus Helicopters EC225LP Super Puma Mk II+ helicopter, acquired second-hand from Spain, is now in full service with the Botswana Defence Force Air Wing, writes Jon Lake.

The aircraft is serving as the presidential helicopter with Botswana’s VIP Flight at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport Gaborone, operating alongside single examples of the Beech Super King Air 200, the Bombardier Global Express, the Gulfstream IV and the Dornier Do-328-110.
The new presidential Super Puma had was formerly flown by the Spanish Cuerpo Nacional de Policia – the national civilian police force, which acquired it in 2010 to support the Policia’s Grupo Especial de Operaciones (special operations group), equivalent to Germany’s GSG-9.
In 2013, the aircraft was returned to Airbus Helicopters in part payment for a new batch of Eurocopter EC135s for the Spanish police. Its smart blue and white colour scheme was removed and it was subsequently stored for some time before being sold to Botswana.
The aircraft was overhauled by Airbus Helicopters at Albacete in Spain and was delivered to Gaborone in Botswana on board an Antonov Airlines An-124 transport aircraft, leaving Albacete on September 13 2016.
The new helicopter flew in the Independence Day fly past on September 30 2016 (part of Botswana’s golden jubilee celebrations at the National Stadium in Gaborone). It was still in a plain white colour scheme, with the serial OL1, and with Botswana’s coat of arms – a central shield supported by two zebras, with the motto ‘Pula’ (rain) below – hastily added behind the rearmost cabin window.
But initially President Ian Khama continued to use his Bell 412, one of eight similar aircraft delivered to Botswana, two of them in VIP configuration.
Meanwhile, the Super Puma was flown to Lanseria in South Africa on February 16 2017, where it was stripped for a full re-spray, re-emerging in May in a smart VIP colour scheme, with cheatlines in the national colours (a white-outlined black stripe on a pale blue field), with a black spine on the tailboom and a pale blue upper tail rotor pylon.
On its return to Botswana, the Super Puma finally took on its new role as presidential helicopter.
 

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