Air Force will finish using Robinson 44 light helicopters at year's end and will begin retraining pilots to operate M28 planes that they received last year. Robinsons have also been used by the Air Force to assist the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) and the Rescue Board (Päästeamet).
Estonia's Robinson 44 helicopters are now nearly 20 years old and starting next year they will no longer be in use. The helicopters were originally received as a gift from the United States in 2002, ETV's "Aktuaalne Kaamera" reported on Tuesday.
There are no plans to acquire new helicopters. "Looking forward and considering that last year we acquired two M28 planes, the official collective decision was made that the life cycle of Robinson 44 helicopters will not be renewed and all resources will be focused on operating M28's," explained Air Force Colonel Rauno Sirk.
The main tasks of M28 planes are sea monitoring and security. Robinsons can not handle these tasks as effectively, because single rotor helicopters have restrictions when flying over the sea.
At the same time, Robinsons have been used to assist the PPA and the Rescue Board.
"In the summer, we've assisted the Rescue Board with fire monitoring, at times we've also participated in police operations. Those tasks will have to be taken over by the PPA from now on," Sirk said.
In Estonia, Robinsons are also in use in the private sector, so Air Force pilots have the choice of retraining or changing jobs. Col. Sirk says that has happened before.
"Pilots have left us to join the private sector before. I don't know the exact figures but I'm going to guess at least half of Border Guard's and PPA's flight crew have a lot of pilots and the head is also former Air Force," Sirk said.
Robinson 44 helicopters are the most produced and sold helicopter in its class of the 21st century.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste