Spanish firefighting helicopter stolen whilst pilot slept


The Spanish Civil Guard is investigating the theft of a Bell-412 firefighting helicopter from its Prado de los Esquiladores base in the eastern-central region of Cuenca. The theft reportedly took place in the early hours of Friday morning last week (August 7th) whilst the pilot was sleeping in the base.

The Bell-412 is part of the Forest Fire Reinforcement Brigades (BRIF) and has been working with that service for the Ministry of Ecological Transition during the annual summer forest fire campaign.

According to local government in Cuenca, thieves unhooked the water carrying system, known as Bambi, used to fight fire and took off with the helicopter loaded with tools.

Base coordinator, Incarnation Montes, told a local radio station, Cadena SER de Cuenca, the pilot was sleeping in the base when he heard the helicopter taking off and sounded the alarm. Apparently, he first thought the sound was another helicopter arriving but after going outside he realised it was his aircraft being stolen. The pilot had not switched on the external navigation lights of the helicopter.

The Bell-412 was later found in the province of Cordoba around x miles (400km) away, according to Babcock International Spain. It also noted the helicopter had been found in good condition denying rumours it had crashed.

The Spanish government has sent a replacement helicopter to the Cuenca base to ensure minimal disruption to the summer fire-fighting campaign in the middle of the season.

Jean-Marc Youkhana, owner, Uplifting Aviation Limited, told Helicopter Investor he would not be surprised if narcotics traffickers were involved. Although proving a link to Narco trafficking at present is difficult because the initial lack of motive makes the incident an unusual one, according to Youkhana.

“It is not the hard to steal a helicopter if you know what you are doing. To give an example, the lock on a H125 helicopter is the same as the Renault 4. What is difficult is to have flown around 400km, underneath radar and landed the aircraft safely without being caught. The pilot must have known the area and they must have known there would be enough fuel, or brought some with them, to make it that far. It will be interesting to see what the reasons are behind this,” concluded Youkhana.

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