The AgustaWestland CH-149 Cormorant is the Canadian Forces designation for the AgustaWestland AW101 (formerly EH101), a helicopter used for air-sea rescue in Canada. Developed as a joint venture between Westland Aircraft in the UK and Agusta in Italy (now merged as AgustaWestland), the CH-149 is a medium-lift helicopter for military applications.
Design and development 
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In 1977, the British Ministry of Defence issued a requirement for an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopter to replace the Royal Navy's Westland Sea Kings. Westland responded with design WG.34 that was approved for development. Meanwhile, the Marina Militare (Italian Navy) was also seeking a replacement for its (Agusta-built) Sea Kings, leading Agusta to discussions with Westland about the possibility of a joint development. This culminated in the joint venture being finalised in November 1979 and a new company (EH Industries) being formed to manage the project the following year - EH being an abbreviation for Elicottero Helicopter the English and Italian words for "helicopter." As the design studies progressed, EH became aware of a broader market for an aircraft with the same capabilities required by the British and Italian navies, leading to a more generalised design that could be customised. After a lengthy development, the first prototype flew on October 9, 1987.
Following the lead of the UK and Italy, the Canadian government placed a $4.4 billion order in 1987 for 48 (later 42) EH101s to replace the Canadian Forces's Sikorsky CH-124 Sea Kings and Boeing Vertol CH-113 Labradors. These were to be assembled in Canada under the designations CH-148 Petrel (33 originally, reduced to 28) and CH-149 Chimo (15) in the anti-submarine warfare and air-sea rescue roles respectively. The whole programme was cancelled, however, after a change of government in 1993, leading to the payment of $500 Million in cancellation penalties.
In 1998, the Canadian government announced that the CH-113s would now be replaced by a new scaled down search-and-rescue variant of the EH101, carrying the designation CH-149 Cormorant. Unlike the Petrel/Chimo contract, these 15 aircraft were to be built entirely in Europe. The first two aircraft arrived in Canada in September 2001 and entered service the following year.
When it became obvious that the Sea Kings were in need of immediate replacement, the EH101 was again part of a Canadian competition (the Maritime Helicopter Project), against a variant of the Sikorsky H-92, for a total price tag of $5 billion. The Sikorsky entry won the competition on July 23, 2004, and the first Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone flew in 2008.
Operational history 
A CH-149 Cormorant lands in Vancouver
The first operational CH-149 flight occurred in 2002 when a Cormorant of 442 Squadron performed a medical evacuation from a merchant ship 200 km (110 nmi) offshore in Hecate Strait. An even more dramatic demonstration of Cormorant capabilities occurred in late 2002 when a 103 Squadron CH-149 successfully flew a 1,200 km round-trip rescue mission to a container ship off Newfoundland. Two refuelling stops at the Hibernia oil platform were required.
On October 25, 2006, a search and rescue crew from 442 Squadron in Comox, B.C. conducted a rescue from the side of a cliff in a box canyon with the CH-149 Cormorant which Canadian Forces Captain Sean Morris described as "pretty much the worst situation I've been in my entire life." Captain Morris and his colleagues received international recognition for the rescue as the first Canadian winner of the Prince Philip Helicopter Rescue Award issued by the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators in the UK  In August 2010, the Canadian Forces fleet of 14 CH-149 Cormorants passed 40,000 operational hours. The fleet had a higher flying rate than any other AW101 fleet and Cormorant 901, currently stationed at Canadian Forces Base Comox with 442 Squadron, has the highest number of airframe hours on any of the AW101s anywhere in the world. The worldwide fleet of 190 Aw101 helicopters had achieved in excess of 200,000 flight hours in Canada, UK, Italy, Denmark, Portugal, and Japan.
In June 2011, several US VH-71s, which are also based upon the AW101, were purchased by Canada to be used as spare parts for the CH-149 fleet.
Notable incidents and accidents 
- In the early years of service, the EH101 and its variants experienced tail rotor hub cracking issues. A British Merlin crashed on March 30, 2004 due to tail rotor hub cracking. The CH-149 Cormorant has been grounded/limited flight status multiple times with these cracks being one of the causes; all 15 aircraft in Canadian inventory showed cracks of varying degrees shortly after entry into service in 2004. Subsequent re-engineering by AgustaWestland resulted in newer hubs in 2005. Out of the 6 aircraft which had the new hubs installed, 3 showed cracking one month later. AgustaWestland has since eliminated this issue with the development of a new Articulated Tail Rotor (ATR) with elastometric bearings for the EH101/AW101, which is based on the proven ATR used on the AW139 medium-twin helicopter. The ATR is now standard issue on new AW101s and is offered for retrofit on existing fleets.
- On 13 July 2006, a CH-149 of 413 Transport and Rescue Squadron crashed off the coast of Nova Scotia killing three personnel and injuring four during a joint search and rescue exercise. Mechanical failure was formally ruled out as the cause of the crash. On 11 March 2008, the Directorate of Flight Safety for the Canadian Forces has announced that it was pilot error that caused the 2006 crash, and that Air Force officials were aware of the lack of training that pilots were receiving. Preliminary reports indicate that pilots were unaware of how to use the autopilot feature and thus a controlled flight into terrain occurred causing the deaths of three airmen.
Specifications (CH-149) 
- Crew: 5 (Aircraft Commander, First Officer, Flight Engineer, 2 SAR Techs)
- 30 seated troops or
- 45 standing troops or
- 16 stretchers with medics
- Length: 22.81 m (74 ft 10 in)
- Height: 6.65 m (21 ft 10 in)
- Empty weight: 10,500 kg (23,149 lb)
- Max takeoff weight: 14,580 kg (32,143 lb)
- Powerplant: 3 × General Electric T700-T6A1 turboshaft, 1,286 kW (1,725 hp) each
- Main rotor diameter: 18.59 m (61 ft 0 in)
- Never exceed speed: 309 km/h (192 mph; 167 kn)
- Range: 1,389 km (863 mi; 750 nmi)
- Service ceiling: 4,575 m (15,010 ft)
- Rate of climb: 10.2 m/s (2,010 ft/min)
- Wing loading: 53.8 kg/m² (11.0 lb/sq ft)
- Power/mass: 0.2849 kW/kg (0.174 shp/lb)
See also 
- Related development
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Related lists
External links