Portugal receives Russian aerial firefighting airplane

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Portugal received on June 29 a Russian Beriev 200 airplane that the Portuguese Government has rented for two months. The stated objective is to test the aircraft during the forest fire season, allowing the Ministry of Internal Administration to determine if it should buy it.

The correspondent agreement agreed to by the Portuguese vice-Minister of Internal Administration, Fernando Rosa Andrade, and the director of the Russian company Beriev, Victor Kobzev, will cost Portugal 1,234,000 (USD 1,552,802) for two months rent and maintenance. The objective is to test the aircraft in real firefighting situations this summer, these tests will then provide information for the Ministry of Internal Administration, so that this can make a final decision about a purchase.

With the double of capacity for the transport of water and fire retardants of other aerial firefighting aircraft that usually operate in Portugal, mainly the Canadair CL-415, the Beriev will operate throughout Portugal, independently of its base. The Beriev's capacity is almost twice that of the Canadair, 12,000 L/h and 6,160 L/h respectively.

"As of June 1, the aircraft will enter in operational tests in real environment, during 60 days", Gil Martins, operations commander of the National Center of Rescue Operations, told Rádio de Renascença News Agency.

"The Beriev is an amphibious aircraft of the same type as the Canadair, that transports a dozen tons of fire retardants, the double than a Canadair aircraft", Martins added.

The aircraft arrives Thursday night at Monte Real Air Base, were he will stay until August 31, and will be visited tomorrow (July 1) by the Minister of Internal Administration, António Costa.

The plan is to purchase four heavy aircraft for fighting forest and ground fires which will become available in 2008. In addition to the order of airplanes the Government as purchased six medium and four light helicopters, in two separate bids, in which the deal for the six medium helicopters caused the dispute of an multimillion dollar war between the three competing companies in the courts.

The international contest was launched by the Portuguese Government in November 2005 for six medium helicopters was participated in by: Heliportugal, Helisul, Helibravo, Eurocopter and the Polish PZL. With the decision made by a jury of seven members, in April the Cabinet decided to purchase from Heliportugal six Kamov 32 helicopters worth 42.1 million EUR, scheduled to arrive June 1.

Early this month the Polish company PZL interposed an action for a provisional legal remedy to the Supreme Administrative Court. In June 21 the Portuguese company Helisul made a plea for the decision of the Cabinet in April 27.

With about 3.2 million hectares of forest in 1995 and 2.5 million hectares in 2005, Portugal lost about fifth of its forest in ten years to forest fires.