Malaysia needs dedicated SAR helicopters

 - March 22, 2007, 6:58 AM

Malaysia’s deputy prime minister has acknowledged the need for the government to acquire helicopters configured to conduct search-and-rescue missions. Datuk Seri Najib Razak said in Kuala Lumpur, “We recognize the fact that we do not have dedicated SAR helicopters. Instead, we have utility helicopters that are used for multiple purposes.”

The politician was speaking in the aftermath of intensive SAR efforts to trace the crew of a Bell LongRanger that had crashed during a flight over dense jungle in Borneo–only 20 minutes after it had taken off on a direct route. It took 16 days to locate the wreckage, by which time the seven people on board were dead. Rescuers finally spotted the helicopter, suspended upside down in tree tops, on a slope of the island’s highest mountain.

The operation, billed as the country’s biggest ever search-and-rescue effort, involved thousands of people, including local security personnel and help from several foreign countries. Bell/Agusta is now thought to be pitching its AB139 to the Malaysian government through its local office.