Firm giving new life to retired Dauphins

 - February 18, 2008, 4:30 AM

Ex-warbirds are a rare sight at Heli-Expo, but Colorado-based Rotor Leasing is exhibiting a newly restored Eurocopter Dauphin that formerly served with the Irish Air Corps.

One of a group of four AS 365FI naval-version Dauphins that flew for nearly two decades in a variety of missions including off-shore search and rescue, troop transport and even in their twilight as neo-natal transports, the helicopters were auctioned off in 2006 after their retirement. Rotor Leasing sent an evaluator to examine the helicopters and found them to be in overall decent condition, a testimony to the care placed on them by Air Corps mechanics.

After tendering the winning bid, the company began the long process of gaining U.S. government approval to import the helicopters, which was complicated by the fact that some Dauphins can carry offensive weapons including torpedoes or missiles, and are therefore categorized as gunships. When approval was finally obtained, the delicate task of dismantling the helicopters and loading them into cargo containers began.
After reaching Houston, the helicopters were trucked to the company’s Elbert, Colo. facility. Dauphin S/N 24 was selected as the first to undergo extensive restoration. It had been grounded since February 2005 pending major inspections.