HH-212: the Air Force bids farewell to the iconic helicopter after more 40 years of operational activity

Grazzanise – 22 February 2024

The phase out ceremony took place on the Grazzanise military airport (CE), headquarters of the 9th Wing “Francesco Baracca”

It was held today, Thursday 22 February, at the Grazzanise military airport (CE), headquarters of the 9th Wing “Francesco Baracca”, the “phase-out” ceremony of the HH-212A helicopter, that after further 40 years of activity in numerous missions outside national borders and in the national field, ends its operational life in the Air Force. Entered service in the early 1980s, the iconic helicopter ended its operational life today after flying for over 180 thousand hours and having contributed to the rescue of hundreds of people in danger of their lives. The ceremony was presided over by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General of the Air Force Luca Goretti, and saw the participation of the Commander of the General Air Squadron of S.A. Alberto Biavati, of the Commander of the 1st Special Operations Air Brigade, Brigadier General Riccardo Rinaldi, of the Commander of the 9th Wing, Colonel Salvatore Florio, and civil authorities, local military and religious, in addition to the Wing staff and the flight crews and specialist personnel who have operated on this iconic military helicopter over the years. Over these four decades, the helicopter was the protagonist, together with the Air Force crews, in numerous operational missions beyond national borders (Afghanistan) and nationally, participating in search and rescue missions in particular events that affected the civilian population, like the floods in Piedmont, that of Sarno and that in Friuli or even following the earthquake that hit the island of Ischia. The Commander of the 9th Wing, Colonel Salvatore Florio, in his speech he recalled the years of operational life of the 212: “[…] years in which the structure of the AM guaranteed excellent reliability and allowed the crews that followed one another in the various generations to operate promptly in all circumstances, effectiveness and maximum safety.” During his speech he wanted to "dedicate a thought to colleagues and friends who, in peace and in war, they sacrificed their existence in the exercise of our profession, in service, in compliance with the oath taken". “The results obtained were achieved because they were based on solid foundations and meticulousness, in unison, of the daily gestures of its crews.” He then concluded Col. Florio. “This is perhaps the best wish we can give to those who will continue, seamlessly, this difficult and silent work. Only by always keeping in mind what has been done to get here, but always remaining focused on the next objectives, we could reach future goals and overcome the challenges that our Armed Force will ask us to face.” General Goretti, during his speech, wanted to underline the importance of this particular event: “Today we proudly salute a machine that made the history of the Air Force, but above all the staff who made this helicopter exceptional.” Referring then to all the crews and personnel who operated on this aircraft he highlighted: “When there is a flood, an emergency, when someone needs to be recovered, even in bad weather, you are always there unconditionally, even putting your life at risk, because you are going to save someone else's life." “And we do this,” he continued, “as the Armed Forces because we are convinced that, when we need to save one of our colleagues or fellow citizens, we intimately feel it as our duty and not because we are obliged by law." The Head of SMA then concluded by saying: “The machines change, people change, but the spirit remains: that winning spirit that distinguishes the Air Force and was demonstrated during the Centenary. Passion, forza, team play. Be proud of it.” The HH-212A is a medium helicopter with a two-bladed rotor powered by two Pratt turbines & Whitney PT6T da 1.342 Kw. It is basically derived from the model 205 from which it differs due to its elongated fuselage. The Air Force purchased the first three examples in 1979 for the Decimomannu polygon (Cagliari), where they were placed in the 670th Squadron of the Air Shooting Standardization and Experimentation Department. In the 1984 they were ordered 32 specimens, intended for the new rescue sections of the 603rd connections squadrons (Villafranca), 604ª (Grosseto), 609ª (Grazzanise), 632ª (Toasts), 651ª (Istrana), 653ª (Linate), 660ª (Amendola). Following the ICO program (Implementation of Operational Capability), in 2006, the unit operated in Afghanistan with the 21st "Tiger" Group of the 9th Wing with reconnaissance tasks, transport of personnel, medical transport, emergency medical evacuation and territory control, scoring in Afghan territory beyond 2.000 flight hours more 1.800 missions. The “Phase-out” ceremony of the historic HH-212A helicopter, as well as having a commemorative connotation, it also represents a symbolic handover between the HH-212A and the new HH-101A, which will continue to provide support to special operations. New machines with new technologies for an Air Force always ready to operate in modern operational scenarios to defend the country, of national interests and for the protection of the community.

Text: Air force
Photo: Air Force and AviaSpotter.it