South African operator utilises Bell 206 fleet to manage locust swarms in Kenya


BAC Helicopters Bell 206L-4

19 August 2020 – In November 2019, South African helicopter operator BAC Helicopters used the delivery of three Bell 206L-4 helicopters, acquired in the US, to bolster their existing fleet.

“In assessing our utility operations and potential future contract requirements, we felt the 206L-4 presented the most versatile and cost-effective option in this single engine category,” said Tremayne Thompson, Chief Executive Officer of BAC Helicopters. “The proven capability of the 206L-4 operating in diverse applications such as vertical reference, passenger charter, firefighting, aerial spraying and survey allows us flexibility to meet our clients’ requirements in terms of performance and reliability,” explains Thompson.

Over the past 10 years, BAC Helicopters has enhanced its operational capabilities through its various divisions, from helicopter operations in remote parts of Africa, to helicopter maintenance services and unmanned drone operations. The company employs a close-knit team of passionate aviation experts who are highly focused on customer service excellence.

The Bell 206L-4’s in the BAC Helicopters fleet, came into their own when the company was awarded a contract in early 2020, to carry out an Emergency Desert Locust Survey and Control operation in a very remote part of Kenya.

“The COVID-19 related travel restrictions throughout Africa proved challenging in every respect when it came to contract planning,” said Ashley Bell, Chief Operations Officer of BAC Helicopters. “Operating across borders in Africa can be challenging at the best of times when it comes to logistics and crew management, but an unprecedented global lockdown took it to a whole new level. Fortunately, our Bell 206L-4 fleet and specialized operational capabilities ensured we were able to meet the stringent contract requirements.”

The helicopters were tasked with surveying vast areas throughout the Marsabit and Turkana counties in Northern Kenya, locating and mapping the locust swarms which are threatening food security through the region. The 206L-4’s were each equipped with specialized Agricultural Survey Equipment, an FDC Barrier Filter and Satellite Tracking System. Essential data gathered by the survey helicopters was then transferred to both fixed wing and helicopter spraying aircraft, allowing them to accurately target specific areas where the locust swarms were present.

The helicopters operated at relatively high payloads and ambient temperatures of close to 40 degrees Celsius, often in very windy conditions. The BAC Helicopters crew and its client in Kenya were extremely impressed by the performance of the Bell 206L-4 helicopters in carrying out this humanitarian aid task under challenging conditions and in such a remote location.

“When we purchased our Bell 206L-4’s, our gut feeling was that we were making the right helicopter choice. Now we can confirm with confidence that our intuition was correct,” said Tremayne Thompson.